Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Chocolate-Brown Sugar Banana Bread

I love banana bread, and it's even better with chocolate chips! Although this recipe is supposed to have fancy muscovado sugar -- which I'm sure is amazing! -- it is also really delicious with regular dark brown sugar. This bread is sweet, moist, and has great banana flavor. As with many recipes I love, it's sweet enough for dessert but doesn't feel too decadent for breakfast.

Chocolate-Brown Sugar Banana Bread (adapted from Genius Recipes)
Makes 1 loaf

2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup softened butter
1 cup plus 1 T dark brown sugar (or muscovado sugar)
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
14 ounces mashed ripe banana (3-4 bananas)
1 cup chocolate chunks

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a loaf pan.
2. Whisk together the flour and baking powder, and set aside.
3. Cream together the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy.  Beat in the vanilla, followed by the eggs, one at a time.
4. Beat in the mashed bananas.  The gently fold in the flour mixture, followed by the chocolate.
5. Scrape into the prepared loaf pan.  Bake 50 minutes, or until a tester comes out moist but clean. Let cool for 15-30 minutes, then turn out on a wire rack to finish cooling.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Grandma Hanna's Menus: Ground steak patties, ranch fries, cabbage salad, rhubarb pie

I'm cooking through my great-grandmother's menus -- get all the details here.  Today's menu: Ground steak patties, ranch fries, cabbage salad, rhubarb pie.  My interpretation of this menu was spicy onion burgers, seasoned oven fries, coleslaw, and a rhubarb custard pie.  The burgers are super simple, but made extra special with spicy pickled onions (see below for a link to the recipe).  I'm sort of obsessed with these pickled onions...they are good on everything and last a long time in the fridge.

On the side, my favorite oven fries.  My husband taught me the best way to make any sort of potatoes at home, and that's to partially cook the potatoes first, either in boiling water or by steaming.  This ensures that the potatoes won't be crunchy on the inside, which is my number one pet peeve of many potato dishes.  Here, Yukon Golds are steamed and then roasted at high heat until they're nice and crispy.  You can use whatever spice blend you like to season your fries; I used an aji amarillo blend from Raw Spice Bar.  To brighten up the plate, there's a scoop of a quick and easy vinegar-based slaw.

This meal was yummy, but the real star was dessert.  Ashley of Big Flavors from a Tiny Kitchen posted an amazing recipe for rhubarb custard pie.  We chatted a bit on Instagram, and it was really cool to find out that her family has been making this recipe since before she was born.  So, lots of history coming together with Ashley's recipe and my great-grandma's menu!  And this pie is seriously delicious.  The custard is sweet and the perfect contrast to tart cubes of rhubarb.  And, while it's fantastic warm out of the oven, it might be even better cold out of the fridge for breakfast the next morning!

Spicy Onion Burgers: Season a pound of ground beef with salt and pepper.  Shape into patties, and cook in a large skillet until the outside is nicely browned and the inside is cooked to your liking.  Serve the burgers on sesame buns with arugula, spicy pickled red onions, and ketchup.

Seasoned Oven Fries: For each person, use one large Yukon Gold potato.  Cut into large wedges, and then steam in a steamer basket until just tender (about 10 minutes).  Let cool for a few minutes, and then toss with olive oil and arrange in a single layer on a large baking sheet.  Sprinkle with kosher salt and your favorite spice blend.  Cook in a 400 degree oven for about 45 minutes, until browned and crispy.

Simple Slaw: For each person, use about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of coleslaw mix (yep, from the grocery -- or you can thinly slice cabbage yourself, if you prefer).  Drizzle with olive oil and rice vinegar, and sprinkle with kosher salt, all to taste.  Mix well and let sit at least 5-10 minutes for the flavors to mingle before serving.

Rhubarb Custard Pie (adapted from Big Flavors from a Tiny Kitchen, original recipe here)
Makes 1 pie

2 cups chopped rhubarb
1 cup sugar, divided
2 T flour
Generous pinch of salt
1 T unsalted butter, softened
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 pie crust (store bought or homemade - either is fine!), pressed into a pie plate

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Stir together the rhubarb with 6 T sugar and set aside until the rhubarb has released its juices
3. Whisk together the remaining 1/2 cup plus 2 T sugar, the flour, and the salt.  Work in the butter with a spoon until the mixture is uniform and sandy.  Stir in the eggs and vanilla.  Stir in the rhubarb.
4. Pour everything into the prepared pie crust.  Bake 15 minutes.  Reduce heat to 325 degrees and cook another 30 minutes, until the filling is set.


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Grandma Hanna's Menus: Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green vegetable or artichokes with Hollandaise sauce

You may remember that I'm cooking through menus that my great-grandmother gave to my grandma when she first got married. Here are the details. Up first is: Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green vegetable or artichokes with Hollandaise sauce. My interpretation of this menu was fried chicken thighs, mashed Yukon Golds with lots of butter, and steamed green beans. I have to admit I skipped the Hollandaise because there was already deep frying and potatoes -- and in any case, it might be modifying just the artichokes (or that's my excuse).

 The beans and potatoes are both pretty straightforward, but I've posted a crazy-good recipe for fried chicken below. I'm not a huge fan of bone-in fried chicken in general, and I'm really not a fan of cooking it at home because it's so hard to get the middle cooked through before the outside burns. This recipe instead uses boneless chicken thighs, cut in half so you get maximum suface area: aka more crunch! Plus, the pieces are small enough that there's no worry about the inside being cooked.  I know some people swear by white meat chicken, but trust me -- using the dark meat here ensures your chicken doesn't dry out and stays juicy and flavorful.  I think the best part of this recipe is the squirt of Sriracha (or any other favorite hot sauce) added to the egg mixture.  It doesn't make the chicken super spicy (well, unless you add a ton), but just adds an extra kick of flavor.  This recipe would easily scale upward: count on one or two thighs per person (that's 2 or 4 small pieces of fried chicken).

Fried Chicken Thighs (adapted from Tori Avey, original recipe here)
Serves 2-4, depending on how hungry you are and how many sides you make

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 cup self rising flour
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 eggs
2 T water
Sriracha, to taste
Oil for frying
Flaky salt

1. Trim the thighs of excess fat and cut each thigh in half.
2. On a large plate, stir together the flour, garlic powder, and black pepper.
3. On another large plate, stir together the eggs and water.  Add a generous squirt of Sriracha -- more or less depending on how spicy you like your chicken.  Gently whisk with a fork until everything is well combined.
4. Heat a few inches of oil in a heavy pot to 350 degrees.
5. Coat the chicken in the flour mixture, then dip in the egg mixture, and finally dredge in the flour again.
6. When the oil is hot, fry the chicken 4-5 minutes, until well browned and crispy, and cooked through.  Depending on the size of your pot, you will likely need to do this in two batches.
7. When the chicken is cooked, transfer to a plate lined with paper towels so that it can drain.  Sprinkle with flaky salt.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

SRC: Peanut Butter Cookies

My partner for this month's Secret Recipe Club was Sid of Sid's Sea Palm Cooking.  I was originally planning to make her Greek yogurt biscuits, but then my sweet tooth hit and I ended up deciding I needed a dessert fix.  Sid's peanut butter cookies were the perfect afternoon snack -- easy to whip together, and so delicious!  These peanut butter cookies are tender, sweet, and pretty much the perfect cookie.  Chocolate is optional...sort of.  I mean, everything's better with chocolate, right?  Either way, you're talking about three or four ingredients for one amazing peanut butter cookie.

Peanut Butter Cookies (adapted from Sid's Sea Palm Cooking, original recipe here)
Makes about 1-2 dozen cookies (depending on size)

1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup crunchy peanut butter
Chocolate chunks or chocolate chips (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil.  Spray with oil.
2. Stir together the sugar and egg.  Add the peanut butter and stir to combine.
3. Scoop cookies onto a baking sheet using a cookie scoop or spoon.
4. Press a few chocolate chunks or chips into the tops of the cookies if you like.
5. Bake about 10 minutes, or until the cookies are just set and nicely browned on the bottom.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Sweet and Spicy Cherry Pepper Mac + Cheese

This bowl of cheesy deliciousness is inspired by a jalapeno popper mac and cheese recipe from one of my all-time favorite restaurants, Homeroom.  Since I already had a jar of spicy peppers in my fridge, I subbed them in for the jalapenos -- if you don't have any, you can roast a couple of jalapenos (or any other pepper you like) under the broiler, peel, and chop.  Along with the spicy peppers, a healthy dose of cream cheese and a crunchy panko topping complete the jalapeno popper theme.  Next time I might add crumbled bacon, too, because the only thing better than a jalapeno popper is a bacon-wrapped jalapeno popper...

Note: If you prefer a non-spicy version of this mac and cheese, you could sub in regular roasted red peppers (jarred or homemade).  In that case, I would probably at least double the amount of peppers.

Sweet and Spicy Cherry Pepper Mac + Cheese (adapted from (adapted from The Mac + Cheese Cookbook: 50 Simple Recipes from Homeroom, America's Favorite Mac and Cheese Restaurant
Serves 3-4

12 ounces whole wheat macaroni
2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1-1/3 teaspoons kosher salt
2 cups grated sharp Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup minced Hot and Sweet Cherry Peppers (or minced peppers of your choice)
1/2 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
Olive oil

1. Put on a big pot of water to boil.  When the water boils, add some salt along with the dried pasta, and cook until the pasta is almost tender -- a minute or so less than the package recommends.  Drain, rinse in cold water, and keep ready until the cheese sauce is done.  (You can cook the pasta while you prepare the sauce to save time!)
2. In a medium pot (or the microwave), heat the milk over medium heat until it just starts to bubble - not a full boil. Remove from the heat.
3. Meanwhile, heat a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Melt the butter in the skillet, and then add the flour and whisk constantly until the mixture turns light brown, about 3 minutes.  Remove from the heat.
4. Slowly whisk in the hot milk - it's okay if the mixture seems thick and lumpy at will all smooth out as you go.  Make sure to use a silicone-coated whisk to protect your pan!
5. Put the skillet back over medium high heat, continuing to whisk constantly.  The sauce is ready when it's silky, thick, and coats a spoon -- mine was ready almost immediately, but it might take up to 2-3 minutes.  Whisk in the salt.
6. Add the Cheddar and cream cheese to the sauce, whisking to combine.  Cook until the cheese is barely melted, about 3 minutes, whisking often.  Stir in the cherry peppers.
7. Remove the skillet from the heat and gently fold in the cooked macaroni.
8. Pre-heat the broiler for a few minutes.  Spray a 9x13 baking dish with oil, and then scoop the macaroni and cheese into the dish.  Sprinkle with panko, and then drizzle with olive oil.
9. Pass under the broiler for a minute or two -- keep a close eye to avoid burning.  You want the panko to get nicely golden brown.  Let sit for a minute or two before serving.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

One Bowl Brownies

These brownies are almost as easy as a box mix, and so delicious!  They fall somewhere between a fudgey brownie and a cakey brownie, they're super thick and chocolate-y, and overall they're sort the platonic ideal of "brownie." We ate our pan way too fast, but these are hard to resist! Pictured here with a scoop of mango lassi frozen yogurt from the Jeni's Splendid  Ice Cream Desserts cookbook...mmmmmm.  The perfect pairing!

One Bowl Brownies (adapted from Show Me the Yummy, original recipe here)
Makes one 9x13 pan of brownies

2 cups sugar
1-3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
5 large eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9x13 pan with oil.
2. Whisk together the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, and salt in a large bowl.  Add the eggs, oil, and vanilla and stir to combine.  Scrape into the prepared pan.
3. If using chocolate chips, sprinkle on top.
4. Bake about 30 minutes, until the brownies are just set.