Banana bread

I have a like/apathetic relationship with bananas – sometimes I’ll get on a tear and eat them with peanut butter for breakfast, but after a few days…meh. And since I can’t seem to exercise moderation when a good produce deal stares me in the face, more than a few turn to mush on my counter. Banana bread is the obvious choice to make them useful, but as I looked for recipes, I realized most were full of butter and sugar. Which is fine for some people, but if I want a cake, it’s going to be chocolate and it’s going to be a brownie, you know? So I went hunting, and this Cookie and Kate recipe offered a great springboard to something that seemed fit for breakfast (and even better spread with peanut butter). As a note – this is definitely a dense, chewy bread, as opposed to something with more crumble. I like it that way, but then, I also prefer brownies to cake. So.

The finished product – delicious banana bread, ready for breakfast.

You’ll need:

  • 4 bananas, the riper the better
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 t vanilla (use the real stuff if you can, it really does make a difference)
  • 1/3 c melted coconut oil
  • 1/2 c honey
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 t ground cinnamon (I may have not measured and added more – about double – to mine. Oops. Didn’t bother me, but totally your call.)
  • 1 t cardamom
  • 1 1/2 c whole wheat flour
  • 1 c nuts (I used almonds, I think pistachios or pecans would be great, too.)

Get cooking:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees and grease a loaf pan.
  2. Mash bananas and mix with eggs and vanilla until combined.
  3. Mix coconut oil and honey together, and add to banana mixture.
  4. In another bowl, whisk together dry ingredients (minus nuts). (I always thought this two-bowl thing was a pain, but realized recently that it allows your baking soda to get incorporated throughout and not lump up. I may have realized that when I bit into some muffins where I did NOT use two bowls. Don’t be me. Dirty the bowl. You have plenty of time to do dishes right now.)
  5. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix until just combined. Mix in nuts (if using).
  6. Transfer mixture to loaf pan, smooth out the top, and cook for 55-60 minutes.
  7. Let cool at least 15 minutes before you slice in. This lasts at least a week in the fridge, and freezes well, too.

Mediterranean date bars

I’m generally a chocolate dessert person – for years, I was ONLY a chocolate dessert person. But I’m always on the lookout for recipes that are outside of my norm, lower in sugar, and/or incorporate a new trick. This checks all those boxes. (It also checked all the dessert boxes for a new friend, which made them the perfect thank you gift.) Inspired by these no bake date bars, I tweaked a bit here and there for my own tastes and was thrilled at the result. Sweet enough for dessert, healthful enough to eat for a mid-morning snack and easy enough to whip up in about 30 minutes (even stuffing all those dates). They’re also adaptable – use whatever nuts you’re nuts about.

A little goes a long way – these are FAR richer than you’d expect.

You’ll need:

  • 24 – 26 pitted dates
  • 24 – 40 almonds (we’ll talk about the range in the instructions)
  • 1 cup coconut oil
  • 1 T vanilla
  • 4 T honey
  • 1 1/2 c flour
  • 1 c chopped pistachios

Get cooking:

  1. Stuff each date with 1 – 2 almonds. (This is the reason for the range – some dates took 1, some 2.)
  2. Line dates close together in the bottom of a dish (I used a pie dish, I suspect an 8×8 pan would be fine, too).
  3. Melt coconut oil over medium heat. Add vanilla, honey and flour. Cook for 5 – 8 minutes, until the flour turns golden.
  4. Pour mixture over dates, spreading to evenly cover (as well as you can,).
  5. Sprinkle pistachios over top, pressing into the batter.
  6. Refrigerate at least an hour, and slice with a sharp knife. (I found this made about 14 servings – again, it’s REALLY rich.)

Goat cheese sauce (and drizzled things)

Though I know how to cook fairly well, I was having a hard time adjusting to cooking for one. (You’re shocked, I know.) So I broke down and tried one of those meal kit services. Cons: pretty expensive, excessive packaging and the produce quality was laughably bad (especially as ‘fresh’ was in the name). However, I did discover 1. how to cook for one (though current life has pitched that right out the window) and 2. that a delicious sauce dresses up any dinner. This goat cheese sauce is amazing on literally anything – white meat, fish, green veggies, root veggies, bread, rice (if you can find it) – and takes very little effort. We’ll all be cooking from home for a while – might as well fancy it up a bit.

Here, the goat cheese sauce is served over chicken, roasted asparagus and potatoes. It was the perfect meal for one. With leftovers for lunch. So, for two, then.

You’ll need:

  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 – 2 T olive oil
  • 3/4 – 1 cup white wine
  • 4 oz goat cheese

Get cooking:

  1. Heat small saute pan over medium heat. Add oil, let heat 30 seconds, then add shallot and garlic. Saute for 2-3 minutes, until both are fragrant.
  2. Add wine to pan, scraping any bottom bits of shallot/garlic, until wine reduces by 1/2 (about 5 minutes).
  3. Crumble in goat cheese and stir continuously until melted into sauce (there will still be little clumps, that’s fine).
  4. Drizzle over anything! (Ok, ice cream would be weird, but you get the idea.) Note: if what you’re drizzling over isn’t seasoned, you might want to add a bit of salt and pepper to this.

Chicken parmesan meatballs

I look very happy to be making meatballs here. My sister was far less happy I was handling that much raw chicken.
I look very happy to be making meatballs here. My sister was far less happy I was handling that much raw chicken.

Digging some drafts out of the archives for this one – because comfort food knows no season, in life or in weather.

Here are some things about me. 1. I love Italian food. 2. I love cooking like an Italian mama. 3. I love feeding people for a festive reason. 4. I like things that are tasty, relatively easy (I realize ease for some is not the same for others) and sure to please a lot of people. These meatballs are 1. super affordable (no really, have you LOOKED at the price of boneless, skinless chicken breast compared to beef?) and 2. go. on. EVERYTHING. Pasta? Check. Pizza? Absolutely. Sub or sliders? You bet. Spaghetti squash? Veggies never had it so good. Alone as an appetizer? Fugetaboutit.

Also, you’ll use your food processor in a way you’ve probably never thought before. Do you make your own sausage? Yeah, me either. But I’ll be darned if my food processor didn’t do a great job “grinding” this meat, which was far cheaper than buying ground chicken. (Also, far more disgusting. I thought my sister was going to boycott the whole event after she saw that.)

If raw chicken doesn’t bother you, though, this actually comes together pretty quickly. I made a HUGE batch for sliders for NYE a few years ago and reused them in every single way listed above. They freeze well, reheat well (though may dry out a bit, FYI), and are super easy to make gluten free. (Or dairy free – you pull the parmesan out but still get a tasty meatball.) This recipe, inspired and adapted only slightly from Annie’s Eats, is all kinds of good. Serve it with your favorite marinara (even if it comes from a jar) or vodka sauce. Or baked goat cheese in marinara. Cause that’s well…awesome.

You’ll need:

  • 1/2 – 3/4 c panko, breadcrumbs or GF crackers
  • 1/3 c onion, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 t thyme
  • 1 t oregano
  • 1/2 t Rosemary
  • 1 t basil
  • 3/4 c Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1½ lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts (or already ground chicken)
  • 2 T olive oil

Get cooking:

  1. If you’re grinding your own chicken, chop those chicken breasts into large chunks, then add to your food processor. I start by pulsing, and then maybe running on low, until everything is ground.
  2. Add your chicken to a bowl with the other ingredients. Mix by hand (gross maybe, but so much easier) until the meat sticks together. You may need to add more bread/oil depending on how dry your chicken is. This is where it’s nice to have a helper, s you don’t have to keep washing your hands.
  3. Form into balls and (if you’re really feeling sassy) roll in more cheese. Place on a greased baking sheet and bake at 400 20-25 minutes, or until internal temp is 170 (knowing they’ll rest and come to 180.)
  4. Serve in all the ways I state above and any other you can think of.

 

Twice unbaked potato salad

Twice unbaked potato salad

I like to cook – so I’m usually not one to shy away from complicated dishes and spending some good time in the kitchen. But all of that goes out the window (as I head out the door) when it comes to summer. My three commandments of summer food:

  1. Simple
  2. Speedy
  3. Served Outside

The first two are key to spend more time in the third. In the summer, I am outside as much as humanly possible. I do not have a clean house, clean car – my clothes may be clean, but they’re certainly not put away until the first major thunderstorm rolls in.

Twice Unbaked Potato Salad
Twice unbaked potato salad – one of the many beautiful dishes on this summer spread!

Which it did the morning Erin invited me and a variety of other Grand Rapids bloggers to her rooftop patio for a Slaw Social sponsored by Reser’s. (Luckily, the sun was out by party time.) Here’s the thing – I don’t love most cole slaw, because as a general rule, I don’t like mayo. Reser’s slaw has some, but is actually really mustard forward (and also has ketchup, pickles, peppers and cabbage). On the first taste, it reminded me of my Granny’s potato salad. So I thought, “How can I make potato salad cocktail party material?”

Twice unbaked potato salad
Easy to make and easy to eat – the perfect appetizer or side dish for any summer party.

Four ingredients and thirty minutes later, I had something simple and simply delicious – and still had enough time to put away my clothes before the rain let up.

You’ll need:

  • 1 tub Reser’s Stadium Cole Slaw
  • 1 2-pound bag mini potatoes (I used red skins, any will do)
  • Smoked paprika
  • 1 bunch green onions, sliced

Get “cooking:”

  1. Bake the potatoes (I did mine in the microwave in about 10 minutes).
  2. Scoop out the potato flesh into a larger bowl. Add the cole slaw and mix.
  3. Sprinkle the potato skins with salt and smoked paprika.
  4. Fill the potato skins with the mixture, then sprinkle with paprika and the sliced green onions.
  5. Enjoy somewhere outdoors and fabulous!

*Reser’s kindly provided both samples and a stipend for supplies, but as always, all thoughts are my own.

Tomato peach burrata salad

Summertime dinnertime – it doesn’t get better than sitting on the back deck with a delicious, light dinner, a glass of cold white wine and a good book. Tomato season is almost upon us, and I implore you to give this potentially wacky combination a try. Initially, the combo of tomato, peach and burrata seemed a little too far out (even though tomatoes are technically a fruit). But as much as I hate to say it, I was wrong. Except I don’t really hate it, because this is light, refreshing and the perfect “celebrate the best of summer” dinner. This serves one generously, probably two in reality (I had leftovers).

Tomato peach burrata salad
ref=”https://foodiefling.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/img_1275.jpg”> Late summer on a plate – tomato peach burrata salad.[/ca
 

Based on: http://www.twopeasandtheirpod.com/tomato-peach-burrata-salad/

 

You’ll need:

  • 2-3 medium tomatoes, sliced
  • 2 large peaches, sliced
  • 1 ball burrata cheese, sliced
  • ½ cup fresh basil, torn or chiffonade
  • Good balsamic vinegar (flavored is fine)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Get cooking (or not, in this case):

  1. Alternate the tomato and peach slices on a plate.
  2. Nestle in burrata (though it’s very wet, so slide may be a more appropriate term.)
  3. Toss the basil on top, drizzle with balsamic and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Summertime and the eats are easy

When Erin said she wanted to have a party to celebrate the end of summer (because we’re just that kind of masochistic here in Michigan) on her rooftop deck, I said “What can I bring?” Well, it turns out the lovely people at La Terra Fina* wanted to step in and help with that. They sent me two dips – their Spinach and Artichoke (the greek yogurt version) and the Lemon Pepper Asiago. I’m a little embarrassed at the ease of what resulted, but that speaks to the quality of these dips.

Spinach Artichoke Mushrooms
Spinach Artichoke Mushrooms – delicious and delightfully easy!

The first dish (I can’t even call it a recipe guys, it’s cheating) is spinach and artichoke stuffed mushrooms. I cleaned the mushrooms, pulled out the stems, stuffed them with the dip and roasted them at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes. The end. Good hot, good cold, good anywhere in between. One tub of dip took about 20 oz of mushrooms, give or take depending on size. I had a little leftover, and tossed with sautéed mushrooms the next day for dinner – also wholly good, and holy easy.

Lemon Pepper Crostini
Lemon Pepper Crostini – great in a pinch!

The second was a bit more…hairy. I have a pizza I love with a goat cheese lemon base, zucchini and summer squash, so I thought I’d reproduce here with a zucchini beer bread (since GR is Beer City) and spread the lemon pepper dip on top. Well. I enjoy under-baked bread as much as the next person, but this took it to new heights – 1.5 hours in the oven and we were not spreading anything on that bread. Plan B, formulated while I’m in nothing but a towel, hair and makeup not done, supposed to be downtown in 15 minutes (it’s a 15 minute drive y’all). Buy flatbread. Spread with dip. Top with sautéed summer squash. Done.

As it turns out, summer came out in all her glory to big farewell – good friends, good food, great views.

*La Terra Fina was kind enough to supply the ingredients, but as always, all thoughts are my own.