Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Classic Banana Bread

I think just about everyone has a recipe for banana bread, but even if you do you should give this one a try. It is just perfect: dense, banana-y, sweet but not overpowering, and packed with pecans. Also, it takes all of 15 minutes to mix everything together and presto you have a sweet treat to eat or give away.

As always this is a great way to use up blackened overripe bananas (which I usually toss in the freezer to preserve if I don't feel like making banana bread). I bake mine in a tube pan because I have never gotten around to buying a loaf pan. I am sure this would turn out just fine in a bread pan but it might take a little longer to bake.

Classic Banana Bread
1 3/4 cups Flour
1 1/2 cups Sugar
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 teaspoon Salt
2 Eggs
2 blackened (overripe) bananas mashed
1/2 cup Vegetable Oil
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon Buttermilk (you can easily substitute curdled regular milk by adding in a tablespoon or less of vinegar to plain milk)
1 teaspoon Vanilla
1 cup Pecans chopped
In a bowl mix together dry ingredients and set aside. 

Dry ingredients

Combine mashed bananas, eggs, oil, vanilla, and buttermilk.

Wet ingredients

Add in the dry ingredients and mix until all is combined. Stir in the pecans.

Pour into a greased tube pan.

In the tube pan

Bake at 325 degrees for about 1 hour and 10 minutes checking on the hour to make sure it doesn't get overdone (bread is done when a knife inserted into the middle comes out mostly clean - with only a few sticky crumbs).

Final product

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Fresh Salsa

I made salsa for the first time a few weeks ago and the results were ok but not great. This time around I added in another tomato, used more peppers, and took out the cilantro (I still don't like the flavor it imparts) and I am quite pleased with the results. Very simple to make but it does taste a lot better if it sits and marinates for a day.

Having sampled it again a few more days later - it is really excellent. The hotness and flavor from the peppers really come out.

Enjoy the heat!

Fresh Salsa
3 Tomatoes finely chopped
1 Onion finely chopped
4-5 Serrano Peppers finely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons minced Garlic
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 Lime juiced
Mix together all ingredients and chill for a day (if possible) before serving. Makes a huge bowl that would be perfect for a party.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Curried Chicken Salad

All the tasty ingredients!
This chicken salad is the bomb. I was inspired by a curried chicken salad I had years ago in Chicago at a restaurant/non-profit called First Slice. They have a small restaurant that also serves food to homeless people and others who are experiencing hard times.

The chicken salad there was delicious, but it took me this long to get around to recreating it. The addition of yogurt helps keep the salad from being to sweet and also harkens back to cooked curries, where yogurt is a frequent ingredient. This is really a simple salad to through together and is great to take on picnics, make sandwiches with, or just to snack on plain. I made it a few weeks ago when my partner's folks were in town - we went to the everglades and picnicked - and they really loved it.


Curried Chicken Salad
3 cooked Chicken Breasts chopped
4 Carrots grated
3 Celery Sticks chopped
4-5 teaspoons Curry Powder
1/2 - 3/4 cup dried Cranberries
3/4 cup Greek Yogurt
3/4 cup Miracle Whip
Sprinkle raw chicken breasts with salt and pepper and bake at 350 for about 30 minutes until chicken is done. Once chicken is done, chill the chicken breasts and then chop them up.

Ingredients assembled
Mix together the chopped up chicken with the carrots, celery, curry powder, cranberries, yogurt, and miracle whip.

Finished product on a sandwich
Store the chicken salad in the fridge and spread on your sandwiches at will. Makes about 8-10 sandwiches.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sweet Potato Salad

Went for a long ride out to Key Biscayne, about 45 miles total, on Saturday with Emerge (a Miami cycling group) and we had a picnic so I made this salad to take. Everyone loved the taste of sweet and tangy, and the sweet potatoes were the perfect vehicle for the flavors. I made it the night before because I wanted it to chill and marinate, but you could probably make it just a few hours ahead of time too.

The original recipe called for boiling the sweet potatoes, but I baked them instead because I have tried that before. Word to the wise: boiled sweet potatoes are gross. The texture is off and the flavor is weird; overly starchy and still kind of "raw" tasting.

I actually forgot to put in the pecans before I was out the door but am sure they would be a nice addition to the salad.

Sweet Potato Salad (adapted from a Taste of Home recipe)
2 lb. Sweet Potatoes (about 3-4) cubed
1/3 cup dried Cranberries
2-3 tablespoons Orange Juice (use a fresh orange)
1-2 teaspoons Orange Peel
3 Celery Stalks diced
1/2 teaspoon ground Ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground Nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground Cinnamon
1 tablespoon Brown Sugar
1/2-3/4 cup Mayonnaise
1/2 cup Pecans chopped
Note: Spices are approximate - I just sprinkled them on the sweet potatoes
Toss cubed sweet potatoes with ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon and bake on a large ungreased pan at 410 degrees (turning over potatoes about 2-3 times so they don't stick) for about 20 minutes or just until the potatoes become slightly soft (not super soft though or they won't hold up in the salad).

Celery and orange peel
While potatoes are cooking mix together orange peel, orange juice, brown sugar, dried cranberries, and celery.

Orange after peel has been grated off
Once potatoes are done toss in with all the other pre-mixed ingredients and add in the mayonnaise. Chill for at least a few hours. Add in the pecans right before serving. Makes about 6 servings as a side dish.