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Monday, September 26, 2011

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins [Secret Recipe Club]

This is my second month as part of the Secret Recipe Club, and I was lucky enough to draw Rebecca from A Dusting of Sugar.  I thought last month's SRC pairing was perfect for me because of the international connection, but this month worked out great too!  Rebecca is a college student, and I work at a college!  I love it when the students I work with get into the kitchen, and if they were half as talented at Rebecca, our campus would be constantly wafting with the smell of goodies from the oven.

I had a hard time choosing a recipe, so I let my coworkers choose for me.  I'd been promising them some baked goods for some time, and this was the perfect opportunity to let them get involved a little with my blog.  They voted for three finalists: Banana Streusel Muffins, Flourless Chocolate Cookies, and Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins.  Obviously, the Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins won, but not without a fight.  It turns out that one of my coworkers is a picky eater and had never had banana and peanut butter together!  She was a little wary, so I had to promise that I would make her top choice--the flourless chocolate cookies--if she didn't like these.  Luckily, they were fabulous and won over my coworker's taste buds.

These were perfect for breakfast as well as mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks at the office.  The amount of peanut butter, banana and chocolate chips created a perfect balance of flavor...no one flavor outshone the other.  I'll definitely be making these again in the near future!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins
Adapted ever so slightly from A Dusting of Sugar

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 Tbl baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
3 large ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup chunky peanut butter (I used all-natural here to great success.)
3 Tbl canola oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 large egg
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, white sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.  Stir to combine.  (There will be little bits of brown sugar left in the sifter...just go ahead and toss that in with the flour mixture.)

In another bowl, mix the mashed bananas, milk, peanut butter, oil, vanilla and egg.  Add the wet ingredients into the flour mixture and stir until just combined.  Stir in the chocolate chips.

Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray or place liners in the tin and fill each about 3/4 of the way full.  This will make roughly 1 1/2 dozen muffins.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

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Friday, September 23, 2011

The Week in Review

Can I make a confession here?  My RSS reader has almost 600 unread posts in it.  There, I said it.  And it doesn't really make me feel better, but it does explain why some of the links below are just a teensy bit older.  Maybe I should start calling this weekly post, "My RSS feeder that's sorely out of date in review..."  :-)

Regardless, go check these links out!
  • Way back when I lived in Spain (13 years ago!), one of my secret addictions was magdalenas.  Magdalenas were these little muffins that tasted like French madeleines, but were a little bit bigger and in a different shape.  You could buy a big bag of them at the grocery store for a couple of bucks, and if I wasn't careful, I could eat them all in one sitting.  I've always longed for magdalenas here in the States, but I don't have to any longer!  Postres de la Cipota has posted her recipe for magdalenas, and as soon as I get a chance, I'm making them!
  • My Fiance! Likes It, So It Must Be Good posted a twist on the everyday grilled cheese...actually grilling it!  I can't wait to try this (although it might have to wait until spring now), but I can already taste the smokiness that the grill will add to this staple in our household.
  • I love food served in food, and Fake Food Free has made a Hidatsa Stuffed Sugar Pumpkin that would be awesome to serve at a fall dinner party.  She also reviews a book on Native American cooking that I'd love to take a look at!
  • And finally, Forks, Knives & Spades made an awesome-looking Corn Chowder a couple of weeks ago.  My sister-in-law actually made the recipe and the report is that it's not only awesome-looking, but also awesome-tasting!
What have you been reading this week?

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Crockpot Chili for Cold Autumn Days

I can't believe it's taken me almost three years to post my chili recipe here.  It's a staple in our household during the autumn and winter months and is so cheap and easy to make!  I usually make a ton so that I have leftovers to freeze or use on chili fries or nachos, and making a lot is easy in a large crockpot.  I made it for the first time this season last week, and was wondering how my sweet 16 month old would like it.  (He can be much pickier than my daughter.)  I don't think I have to worry:

Licking the bowl
More, please!

Making this couldn't be easier.  It takes me about 15-30 minutes to prep, and I often do it the night before, throwing all ingredients in the removable crockpot pot, covering it and keeping it in the fridge until I'm ready to start it in the morning.  The crockpot does the rest of the work!  I've made this with stew meat as well, and I really like it, although this version is cheaper.  If you go with stew meat, just brown it before throwing it in the pot.

Crockpot Chili
1 lb. ground beef
2 Tbl plus 1 tsp chili powder, divided, plus more to taste
3 tsp Kosher salt, divided, plus more to taste
1 1/2 tsp pepper, divided
2 cans (or about 4 cups cooked) black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cans (or about 4 cups cooked) pinto beans, drained and rinsed
2 cans (or about 4 cups cooked) kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 large tomato, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
1/2-1 jalapeño, diced
2 Tbl tomato paste
1 tsp cayenne pepper, plus more to taste
1 tsp herbes de provence

Place the ground beef with 1 teaspoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a saute pan over medium-high heat and cook until browned.  Drain the grease and place the ground beef in the crockpot.  Mix in the rest of the ingredients (including the remaining 2 tablespoons chili powder, 2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper) and add water until you just see it under the ingredients.  (I like my chili thicker, but if you like yours to have more of a gravy, then add more water.)  Turn the crockpot on high for 1 hour and then down to low for 7 hours (or longer if need be).  Taste the chili about an hour before serving to check the flavor.  Adjust the spices accordingly.

Serve with pepperjack cheese and sour cream on top and cornbread with honey butter on the side.

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Monday, September 19, 2011

Canteloupe Sorbet

Last week, I posted a recipe for Wild Blackberry Gelato, and this week I'm back with a Cantaloupe Sorbet from the same cookbook, Ciao Bella Book of Gelato and Sorbetto.  I know it's gotten chilly in many places as autumn leaves begin to fall, but I want the summer to last just a little longer, with its long evenings and laid-back feeling.  This bright Cantaloupe Sorbet does just the trick!  My daughter was thrilled with the idea that her "ice cream" tasted just like cantaloupe.  My husband, although he really liked it, wondered why you wouldn't just eat the cantaloupe as the fruit.  :-)  I, myself, liked the contrast of the iciness of the sorbet with the natural creaminess of cantaloupe.

This is a completely refreshing end to a meal, but could also be used to "cleanse the palate" between courses, if multiple courses is your thing.  We don't do that kind of meal often, but when I do, I'm keeping this in my back pocket to make us seem fancier than we are.

Cantaloupe Sorbet
adapted from Ciao Bella Book of Gelato and Sorbetto

4 cups cantaloupe, seeded, peeled and chopped (from about one large cantaloupe), chilled
1 Tbl fresh lemon juice
Simple syrup

Simple Syrup:
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

To make the simple syrup:  Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan and place over medium-high heat.  Stir until the sugar dissolves and continue to simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat and let cool.  Pour into an airtight container and refrigerate for at least an hour.  (This will keep for quite a few days in the refrigerator.)

Once the simple syrup has been refrigerated, combine the cantaloupe, the lemon juice, and about half of the simple syrup in a blender and blend until smooth.  (The original recipe says to use all of the simple syrup, but I thought that it would be too sweet.  I used about half, and that was about right for me.  Taste your puree and add more if needed.)

Pour the puree into your ice cream maker and churn according to your maker's instructions.  Transfer the sorbet to an airtight container and freeze for at least two hours before serving.

If the sorbet is too hard to scoop, let sit on the counter for 5-15 minutes (depending on the temperature of your house) and then scoop.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Zucchini Ribbon Salad with Feta and Oregano

This is the time of year that my family and I dread: zucchini season.  You'd think we were allergic to the stuff because none of us like it except for in baked goods.  I get a ton of them in my CSA shares, and I hate for anything to go to waste, so I've been subjecting my kids and husband to zucchini recipe after recipe...and I think I finally found a winner!

I've seen zucchini ribbon salads floating around the internet this season, so I decided to try my hand at one.  I thought that the thin slices would help the family over our zucchini texture issue, and I was right!  I found fresh oregano at the farmer's market for a buck and decided to add that along with the sharp salty flavor of feta cheese.  I'll definitely be making this again as everyone had seconds...and someone who shall remain nameless had a healthy portion of thirds.  :-)

Just as a note for next time: although the ribbons are beautiful when served, they can be a little unwieldy on the plate.  I think I'll slice the zucchini into thin rounds rather than ribbons next time to make it easier on everyone, but if you like the ribbons, just make sure to serve with a knife.

Zucchini Ribbon Salad with Feta and Oregano

2 medium zucchini, washed and ends trimmed
2 tsp roughly chopped fresh oregano
1/4 cup feta, crumbled (or more to taste)
Juice of one lemon
6-9 Tbl olive oil (depending on how lemony you like your dressing!)
Salt and pepper

Using a mandoline (using the 1/8" setting) or a a very sharp knife, cut your zucchini lengthwise (if cutting ribbons) or into very thin rounds.  Lay in a deep platter or serving dish.  Sprinkle with the oregano and feta. 

In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.  Whisk in 6 tablespoons of olive oil and taste.  If the vinaigrette is too lemony, add a little more olive oil until the flavor is how you'd like it. 

Pour the vinaigrette over the zucchini about 10 minutes before serving.

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Monday, September 12, 2011

Wild Blackberry Gelato

This summer I was lucky enough to be invited to a friend's farm to pick wild blackberries.  I had never done this, and it was so much fun!  I was dropped off in the middle of a blackberry patch and told to have at it.  I came away with almost a gallon of blackberries and immediately froze them for later use.  I used some in a Blackberry Peach Cake (yum!), but still had a ton left.  I finally settled on a blackberry gelato from the Ciao Bella Book of Gelato and Sorbetto cookbook.  My husband had bought it for me as a gift last year, and for some reason, I had never gotten around to trying anything.

Besides never having used this cookbook, I had never made a custard-based ice cream.  I was always scared that the eggs would cook and I'd end up with curdled ice cream, but it turns out that it's much easier than I thought it would be!  I served this wild blackberry gelato with some chopped sugared peaches, and it was the perfect accompaniment to the slightly sour wild berries.  The gelato was creamy and delicious--so much so that I can't wait to try my hand at other flavors from this book!

Wild Blackberry Gelato
from Ciao Bella Book of Gelato and Sorbetto

2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
4 large egg yolks
2/3 cup sugar
3 cups fresh wild blackberries
2 Tbl sugar (less if using sweet berries)
2 tsp fresh lemon juice

In a heavy saucepan, combine the milk and cream.  Over medium-low heat, cook, stirring occasionally so that a skin does not form, until small bubbles start to form around the edges and the mixture reaches 170 degrees F.

Meanwhile, in a medium heat-proof bowl, whisk the egg yolks until smooth.  Whisk in 2/3 cup of sugar slowly until it is thick and pale yellow.  Pour a little of the hot milk into the egg mixture while whisking continuously.  (This is to make sure that the eggs don't cook.)  Continue pouring the hot milk mixture into the eggs, whisking all the while, until fully incorporated.  Return the custard to the saucepan and turn the heat to low.  Cook, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon, until the custard is thick and coats the back of the spoon.  (It should reach about 185 degrees F.)  Do not boil.

Pour the mixture through a fine sieve into a clean bowl and set in an ice bath, stirring occasionally until the custard is cooled.  Cover and refrigerate at least four hours or overnight.

Combine the blackberries, 2 Tbl sugar, and lemon juice in a food processor and puree.  Pour into a fine sieve and press down on the solids to extract the liquid.  Throw the solids away.  Cover and refrigerate for one hour.

Once the custard and blackberry liquid have refrigerated, gently whisk the blackberry puree into the custard.  Pour the mixture into an ice cream machine and follow the manufacturer's directions.  Transfer to a container and freeze for at least two hours before serving.

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

How to Cut an Avocado

Growing up in California, I always took avocados for granted.  They were cheap, in good shape, and everyone knew how to use one.  When I moved to Kentucky, I was surprised to find out how expensive they are and to find out how many people outside of the West don't know what to do with them.  My in-laws in Wisconsin think that they look and feel gross.  Fine with me...that just leaves more for my tummy!  I love to use avocados in salads and in guacamole...what do you use them for?

Today I'm going to show you how to get the lovely green flesh out of an avocado in tact and ready to chop or puree.   First you need to slide a large sharp knife all around the circumference of the avocado, slicing deeply until your knife hits the pit.

Once you've done this, take one half in each hand, and twist in opposite directions.  The avocado should split neatly in half, leaving the pit in one half.

Take the pit side in one hand and whack the pit with your knife carefully, but with enough force to get your knife lodged in the pit. While holding the avocado half with one hand and the stuck knife with the other, gently twist in opposite directions.  The pit should pop out of the avocado and stay stuck to your knife.  Gently remove the pit from your knife.

After you've removed the pit, you should have avocado halves that look like this:

To remove the flesh without squishing it, hold the avocado with one hand, and run a large spoon along the edge of the inside of the skin.  The avocado half should come out in tact.

And now you're left with lovely avocado halves that can be stuffed, chopped or pureed into guacamole!

And, as an added bonus, save that avocado pit when making guacamole.  Place the pit in the container with the guacamole to keep it from turning brown as fast.  :-)

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Monday, September 5, 2011

Fried Chicken...A Kentucky Favorite

Can you believe that I've lived in the south for 10 years now and had never made fried chicken until last week?!  Crazy, huh?  I grew up on it, even if I was in California.  I remember that my great grandmother used to make it for us for Sunday lunches at her house, along with her famous potato salad and other fresh vegetables.  I finally decided to try my hand at it last week when our local butcher had some lovely thighs and drumsticks in.  And we weren't disappointed...I made a ton, so we feasted on it all week.  I think that this week, though, we'll have to make up for it by eating salads for dinner.  :-)

This recipe takes some hands-off time, but is really simple.  I used smoked paprika, but you could substitute other herbs and spices to make this recipe your own.

Smoked Paprika Fried Chicken
adapted from Everyday Food

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup cornstarch
Kosher salt
2 Tbl smoked paprika, separated
1 quart buttermilk
3-4 lbs. chicken pieces (I used thighs, legs, and boneless skinless chicken breasts.)
3 cups vegetable oil

In a pie plate, mix the flour, cornstarch, one teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and one tablespoon of smoked paprika.  Transfer about 1 1/2 cups of the mixture to an airtight container and set aside.  In a large glass or ceramic bowl, whisk the buttermilk, one tablespoon salt, 3/4 teaspoon pepper and one tablespoon of smoked paprika.  Dip the chicken pieces into the flour in the pie pan, covering completely, but lightly, and then submerge in the buttermilk mixture.  Cover and refrigerate at least three hours or up to overnight.

When you are ready to fry the chicken, place a wire cooling rack over paper towels.  In a large cast-iron skillet or other heavy skillet or pot, heat the oil to 350 degrees F over medium heat.  (A small cube of bread should brown in less than one minute.)  Transfer the reserved flour mixture to a clean pie pan.  In batches, remove the chicken from the buttermilk, letting the excess drip off a little, and dredge in the flour mixture.

Fry the chicken until golden brown and cooked through, about 20 minutes per batch, turning once.  If it browns too quickly, turn the heat down slightly.  When the chicken is done, transfer to the wire rack to cool at least five minutes. 

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Friday, September 2, 2011

This week's Week in Review will be a little different than normal.  I'd like to focus on Kentucky Food bloggers and our first official event that we held last week.  Go check these great food bloggers out!

  • First of all, the Kentucky Food Bloggers Association (which I am lucky to be a part of) has officially launched their Facebook page.  Go over there and become a fan to find out what Kentucky food bloggers are up to!  You would think that Kentucky wouldn't have too many food bloggers, but right now, we're at almost 50 bloggers and growing daily!  (Let me know if you're a Kentucky food blogger and are not part of this group...I'll get you hooked up!)
  • Go over and see what some of the bloggers who attended a tasting tour of Danville, Kentucky last week had to say about our little city.  I was proud, yet nervous, to help host this group of bloggers, especially since many were from larger cities in the state and I wasn't sure that our little city would stand up to what they're used to.  I shouldn't have been so nervous, though--the evening turned out great, and so far, Fake Food Free, Mirabelle Creations, My Fiance Likes It, So It Must Be Good, and The Goodness of the Garden have all written posts about their visits to Danville.  (If you missed my post, you can go here to read it.)
What have you been reading this week?

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Thursday, September 1, 2011

CSA Recap

I didn't post a CSA recap last week because the farmer we work with asked if we could take a break for a week or two.  Apparently, they did not receive any rain for the entire month of August.  :-(  Luckily, we work with a great farm, and they will be adding the weeks we miss at the end of the season.  We thought we weren't going to get any veggies this week either, but we got the good news earlier in the week.  Yahoo!

This week we received:
  • Hothouse tomatoes
  • Green beans
  • Peppers
  • Cucumber
  • Potatoes
  • The biggest zucchini I've ever seen.
We'll be using the tomatoes for salsa, the peppers to serve with Italian sausages, and the zucchini in a shaved zucchini salad.  What did you get in your CSA this week?

And if you know a rain dance, please do it for Central Kentucky farmers!  :-)

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