Thursday, September 30, 2010

Going Bananas!

We just had a couple bunches of bananas in our home this week. My favorite time to eat bananas is just after they stop being green. After a while, once they start to brown, they are just too sweet for me. I'm not likely to eat them straight from the peel when they are like that, but they are still good for smoothies and cutting up into your Rice Krispies! But there comes a point when they are good for nothing but Banana Bread.

Two bunches of bananas may be too much for my family to have at once. We've eaten them as best we could, but they still went brown and mushy pretty quickly. Brian says it is my fruit bowl. He thinks it has supernatural powers to turn fruit bad before their time. Anyway, we had three soon-to-be rotten bananas, and it was time for Banana Bread.

I guess everyone probably has a recipe for Banana Bread. I'm not going to say that this is the very best Banana Bread recipe there is, because I'm sure someone out there has a better one. But that being said, there really aren't that many variations to Banana Bread recipes. They're all gonna have pretty much the same basic ingredients. But maybe you don't have your own recipe for Banana Bread. Then I would like to share mine with you. This is a good standby, I-don't-have-to-put-much-effort-into-this, only-making-this-to-use-up-old-bananas kind of recipe. Of course, you could add some spices or chocolate chips, (would have done that if I had some on hand) to make it your own.

Banana Bread

1/2 cup oil
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
3 or 4 ripe bananas, smushed to mush
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, optional
1/8 cup additional sugar for pan, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine oil and sugar and whisk together. Add the bananas and eggs and whisk to combine. Add the dry ingredients, milk, vanilla and nuts and stir well to fully incorporate. Grease a 5x9 inch loaf pan. Add sugar to the pan and shake around till it coats the bottom and sides of pan. Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 1 hour. Allow to cool before removing from pan.

Options for serving:
1. As soon as it is cool enough to eat.
2. Well chilled from spending some time in the fridge
3. Sliced, toasted and slathered in butter.


Monday, September 20, 2010

An Egg With Many Names

Ah, the Deviled Egg! What church potluck would be complete without them? I love Deviled Eggs, but did you know that they have lots of different names? For example, say you want to take them to a church potluck, but don't want to call them "deviled". Then call them "Dressed Eggs". Or if you want to sound highfalutin, then call them by their French name, "Oeufs Mimosas" (Eggs Mimosa in English). In Hungary they are called "Casino Eggs". When they are stuffed with Caviar they are called "Russian Eggs". In the Middle Ages they were called "Stuffed Eggs" and only relatively recently (the 1800s) began to be called "Deviled" due to the spices that are often used.

I grew up eating my Nana's deviled eggs. They are simple and delicious, with few ingredients, so it's economical too! Below I will give the basic instructions for making these eggs. It's not a "recipe", but more like the techniques you need to make them. You know, that's how Grandmothers cook, a dash of this, a splash of that...

Deviled Eggs

Eggs (as many as you want/need)
Mayonnaise (Hellman's is recommended)

Place your eggs in a pot and cover with cold water, allowing for a couple inches of water above the eggs. Place the pot on the stove burner and set to high. Once the water has started to boil, set a timer for nine minutes. After nine minutes, the eggs should be hard set. Remove the eggs from the pot by using a ladle and place eggs in a bowl of cold water.

Remove shells immediately. Carefully crack the egg, (I find that cracking the egg under water allows some water to get between the egg white and the membrane to allow for easier shell removal). Gently peel away the shell and set the hard boiled egg aside.

Once all eggs have been peeled, slice the eggs in half lengthwise. Pop out the egg yolks and place in a bowl. Place the egg whites in an egg dish hollow side up.

Mash the egg yolks with a fork or potato masher. Sprinkle with salt: the amount of salt will depend on the number of eggs used. It usually takes about 1 dash of salt per egg, but only add about half of that at this time. Add pepper at this time, no more than one grind/dash per two eggs. You can always adjust later to taste. Mix well. Add mayonnaise, one spoonful at a time mixing well after each addition until egg yolks are creamy. Taste the yolks and make necessary adjustments to seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if necessary.

Nana scoops the egg yolk mixture into the egg white using a fork. I have found that using a pastry bad makes the job quick and easy, not to mention kind of pretty. Either way, just fill up the hollow part of the egg white. Finish with a sprinkle of paprika over the top. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

For the last few years, I have been the deviled egg maker for the our family reunion. So using about 4 dozen eggs, I'm turning out around 100 deviled eggs!! Needless to say, not only do I have a lot of egg plates, but I also know some tricks when it comes to fixing mistakes! One time I added too much salt. Adding a little milk will help tone down the saltiness. Another time, I used a new mayonnaise brand, which I didn't realize tasted too much like vinegar until after adding to the egg yolks. A little milk and sugar did the trick, no one would have ever known. I've also used my food processor to mash and mix up the egg yolk mixture when I'm making such a large number of eggs...anything to make life easier! Finally, for the family reunion, I don't fill the eggs until I get to the location. I make everything the night before, then cover my plate with the egg whites with plastic cling. The egg yolk mixture goes into my pastry bag and sealed into a Ziploc bag and I park all of it in the fridge overnight. When I get to the reunion, I just pull out the pastry bag and quickly fill the eggs then sprinkle with the paprika.

Though many people put other ingredients in their deviled eggs, our family loves these eggs "plain", as Nana says. It's a great way to please the picky eater. That being said, there are so many ways to make deviled eggs, so how do you dress your eggs?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Cake Mix Cookies

In 8th grade I took Home Economics. Once a week we would make something to eat, then share with all the teachers in the school. I remember making haystacks and cookies made with a cake mix. Those became my favorite cookies and I made them all the time. I lost that recipe long ago, but Nana has a recipe for Cake Mix Cookies that I will share with you today.

The great thing about Cake Mix Cookies is that you can be creative and design your cookies to fit your own style. First, pick what flavor cookie you want by choosing your cake mix flavor. Then decide what you want to add to your cookies. Chocolate chips, raisins, nuts, and candies will do the trick. You could even ice the top with a
glaze or butter cream. It's lots of fun and easy enough to do with kids. Sophie (who is 2 1/2) has been helping make these cookies.

Devil's Food Mix with Chocolate Chips

French Vanilla Mix with Chocolate Chips

Lemon Mix (would have been great with a glaze!)

Cake Mix Cookies

1 box cake mix (any flavor)
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup of your add-in (chocolate chips, etc.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients together, (you may have to use your hands). Drop teaspoons of dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart. Bake 8-10 minutes. Allow to cool 2 minutes, then transfer to cooling rack or plate to continue cooling until set.

This makes a whole lot of cookies, or less if you want bigger cookies. Nana makes these to take to Vacation Bible School.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Nana's Baked Beans

Today is Labor Day! You're probably spending this day with family and friends. And eating, cause that's what you're supposed to do on holidays. Last night we had a meal at church. I've been wanting to make Nana's recipe for Baked Beans and last night was the perfect opportunity! It's a great dish to serve alongside your other holiday fare, or at your next church fellowship meal.

Nana's Baked Beans Deluxe

1 lb. ground beef
4 15 oz. cans pork and beans (Van Camp's recommended)
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 cup ketchup or tomato sauce
3 tbsp. mustard
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
3 tbsp. oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat oil in skillet on medium high heat. Add beef, pepper and onion to skillet and cook until beef is browned and vegetables are softened. Mix all ingredients in a large casserole dish. Cover and bake for one hour.