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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Ultimate Banana Bread!!!!

So... I love banana bread. Who doesn't? But every recipe I've ever tried has only been mediocre. Until one day we were watching America's Test Kitchen on the CREATE channel (if you don't know what the CREATE channel is you should totally find out! Here's the link to their site: http://www.createtv.com/), and they did a spot forThe Ultimate Banana Bread. I tried it out and found it to be AMAZING! It was gone in less than two days it was so good. What sets this particular recipe apart from the others is that it use 6 bananas instead of the normal 3 or 4. Six! That's a lot of banana! But who's complaining, right?

The recipe can be found on the America's Test Kitchen website: http://www.americastestkitchen.com/recipes/detail.php?docid=25349&extcode=M**ASCA00. The only thing is, to be able to view the actual recipe and all the tips they give, you have to register with them. It's 100% FREE and all you have to do is sign up!

Did you know that bananas are full of liquid? Neither did I! That, apparently, is the secret to giving this banana bread all of its banana-y flavor while keeping it moist. With that said, on to the recipe!

Here are the ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 large VERY RIPE bananas peeled (I'll talk about this below)
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter , melted and cooled slightly
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons white granulated sugar


 The Recipe:

1. Make sure your oven rack is in middle position and preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8 1/2  X 4 1/2-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl.





2. Place 5 of your bananas in a microwave-safe bowl; cover with plastic wrap and poke several steam vents in the plastic. Microwave on high power until the bananas are soft and have released liquid (that's where the liquid comes from!), it takes about 5 minutes.

 
3.  Transfer the bananas to a fine-mesh strainer placed over a bowl and allow them to drain. Stir them occasionally for about 15 minutes (you should end up with about ½ to ¾ cup liquid).

 *Looks kind of gross, but do you see the liquid in the bottom? 

4. Transfer all of the liquid to a medium saucepan and cook over medium-high to high heat until reduced to about 1/4 cup, about 5 minutes.


5.  Remove pan from heat, stir the reduced liquid into your cooked bananas and mash a with potato masher until fairly smooth.


6. Whisk in the butter, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla.


7. Pour the banana mixture into the flour mixture and stir until just combined with some streaks of flour remaining. Gently fold in walnuts, if using (I didn't).


8.  Scrape the batter into your prepared pan.


9.  Slice remaining banana diagonally into ¼-inch-thick slices.


10.  "Shingle" the banana slices on top of both sides of the loaf, leaving space down the center of the loaf, to ensure an even rise. Then sprinkle the granulated sugar evenly over the top.




11.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean, about 55 to 75 minutes (mine took about 60 minutes). Cool bread in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then remove the loaf from pan and continue to cool on wire rack.


12.  Serve warm or at room temperature. But it's really good warm :)


This recipe is super easy, especially if you go to the website above. They explain why you need to use VERY RIPE bananas and you can watch the clip they aired on the show. If you go to the market sometimes they'll have ripe bananas for sale at a discount, I got mine at the local IGA for $.90! This way you don't have to wait days for them to ripen enough. Apparently, the more brown the banana is, the more fructose there is in the banana. Hence why there isn't a lot of sugar in this recipe. I give this recipe a 2 for ease of use. All my friends and co-workers love this banana bread :) It truly is the "best" banana bread recipe out there (at least that I have found).

When doing this, I actually made two loaves. One the way the recipe called for and one a little different. The results were very surprising. In place of the unbleached all-purpose flour, I used whole wheat flour. I also added a few tablespoons of walnut oil (since I didn't use any walnuts) and the loaf turned out the same except the texture and flavor were slightly different. It had a denser texture and there was a small hint of nut flavor. It also tasted "healthy", but in a delicious way. Next time I use this recipe, I will do it my way. I liked it best and I think it helps makes it my own. Hope you enjoy!

~Carson~

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Turkey Burgers With Avocado Sauce!

Ok so it's grilling season and no one wants to be stuck over a hot stove. This is a tasty recipe that from start to finish only takes about 45 mins. It can be found on page 200 of the Taste of Home Cookbook All New Edition.

Ingredients
1 cup fresh or frozen (thawed) corn
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1 small red pepper chopped (I used a green bell)
2 jalapenos seeded and minced
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 cloves garlic minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/8 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1lbs extra lean ground turkey.
Sauce
1 medium ripe avocado peeled
1/2 cup fat free sour cream
2 tablespoon fresh minced cilantro (I left that out, Carson hates it so I used parsley)
2 teaspoons lime juice
1 garlic clove minced
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 whole wheat hamburger buns.
1. In a large skillet, saute the onions, corn, and peppers in oil until crisp tender. Stir in the lime juice, garlic, salt, cumin, chili powder, and oregano; cook 1 minute longer. Transfer to a large bowl and cool slightly.(Note: This can be done on the grill if it has a gas stove eye, it was just to hot out that day for me.)

2. Crumble turkey over mixture and mix well, shape into four burgers and refrigerate for at least 30 min.
3. For sauce, in a small bowl mash the avocado with the sour cream, cilantro, lime juice, garlic, and salt. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
4. If grilling the burgers, coat grill rack with cooking spray before starting the grill. (Note: If you do it with the grill light it will make a huge flame and scare the piss outta you.) Grill burgers covered over medium heat for 7 minutes on each side, or until meat thermometer reads 165 and juices run clear.

5. Place Burgers on buns, top each with about 1/4 cup avocado sauce. Serve with lettuce, cheese, tomato, and onion if desired.
So these burgers tasted amazing! The left overs we took for lunch made both of us the envy of our coworkers. I would give these a 6 on the skill level. It took quite a bit of chopping and mixing, but they are so worth trying.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Aunt Peggy's Italian Zucchini Bake

This recipe can be found on page 141 of "Paula Deen's: The Deen Family Cookbook". Jason prepared this dish with a prep time of about 15 minutes and a cook time of 45-50 minutes (it took about 10 minutes longer to bake than called for in the recipe). It was VERY good, there was enough left over for lunch the next day and it was just as good then as it was for dinner the previous night.

Ingredients:

4 tablespoons of butter or 1/2 a stick
1/2 a cup of chopped yellow onion
1/2 a cup of chopped green bell pepper
One 4 ounce can of sliced mushrooms, drained
One 1 ounce package Italian seasoning mix (it cost about $3.00 for a 4 pack at WalMart)
1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
One 6 ounce can of tomato paste
2 1/2 pounds zucchini, trimmed and cubed
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese



Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Dice and chop all your veggies.





 Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat and saute the onions and green peppers for about 5 minutes or until softened.

Stir in mushrooms, seasoning mix and salt.



Take the skillet off the heat and add the tomato paste and add 1/4 cup of water.


Stir till all the paste is dissolved.



Stir in the zucchini and transfer the mixture to an 11 by 7-inch baking dish.

 
Top with the mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until the zucchini is tender when pierced with the tip of a knife.

 
Serve hot. and ENJOY.





This was a very easy recipe. Jason gives it a 1 it was so easy. This is another great way to use up some of the extra zucchini you probably have hanging around. You can also add squash to this dish if you don't have enough zucchini. Let us know if you try it out :)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Zucchini Bread

So, it's the middle of summer and you have SO much zucchini coming out of the garden you can't even give it away anymore! What do you do!? Well, you can make zucchini bread. There are dozens of recipes for zucchini bread and not a single one of them is the "right" one. You really just have to give it a try and find one that makes your taste buds happy. That's what we did. We found this recipe in "The Martha Stewart Cookbook: Collected Recipes For Every Day" on page 111. This recipe makes A LOT, 4 large loaves or 8 small to be exact. But the great thing about zucchini bread is that it freezes well. This particular version has a very rich flavor that won't make you feel guilty while eating it!

Here's the ingredient list:

6 eggs (fresh from the chicken coop)
3 1/2 cups sugar (on hand)
1 3/4 cups light vegetable oil (I used canola, on hand)
5 cups unpeeled grated zucchini (freshly picked from the garden)
5 teaspoons of vanilla extract (on hand)
6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (on hand)
2 teaspoons baking soda (on hand)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder (on hand)
6 teaspoons cinnamon (on hand)
2 cups chopped walnuts (I happened to have these on hand)
1/4 cup walnut oil ($5.99 on sale a Kroger [you can find it where the olive oils are])


Now the recipe...

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter or spray with vegetable oil your pans. I used 2 large loaf pans (9 X 5 X 3 inches) and 4 small loaf pans (6 X 3 X 1.5 inches) because that's what I had on available.

Beat the eggs until light. Add the sugar, mixing well.


Add the oil, vegetable oil, zucchini, and vanilla. Mix thoroughly.


Sift the dry ingredients together. Add the dry mixture to the egg mixture a cupful at a time.


Stir until well blended.


Add the nuts and walnut oil.
 Spoon into the pans (the larger loafs took about 3 cups worth and the smaller ones about 1 1/2 cups) and bake for approximately 1 hour.


Cool on racks.
The total prep time was about 45 minutes. That included grating the zucchini and making everything look nice for pictures and actually taking the pictures. The total baking time for this recipe was about an hour and 10 minutes. I rotated the pans in the oven at about 30 minutes and took the smaller loaves out at 1 hour. I wasn't able to use my stand mixer for this recipe because there is so much batter. I ended up using a large bowl and stirring by hand instead (which isn't a big deal, I just love my KitchenAid). The bread turned out very full of flavor but not as sweet as a "southern style" recipe would end up being. As Jason would put it "It's got a northerner flavor to it" and as my friend Linda says "It tastes very healthy, but in a good way". I personally think its very good and would definitely make it again. I would give this recipe a rating of a 1 out of 10. It's a very straight forward, easy recipe with BIG results. I love to give handmade gifts and breads like this make excellent gifts, besides, who doesn't love a gift made from the heart?

The total cost of this recipe is only about $5.99. It would have been nothing, but we needed walnut oil. Now we have it on hand.

There are few things that I did different than the original recipe. For instance, in addition to the zucchini I used yellow and white squash. I didn't have enough zucchini yet but had the other squash handy. It didn't effect the taste one bit, if anything it made it prettier by adding color! I used cooking spray when I needed to grease my pans and I also don't have a sifter (I don't know of anyone that does...). So what I do when it calls for use of a sifter is to combine all the dry ingredients together and whisk it them with a whisk. I find that it mixes the dry ingredients together while breaking up any flour clumps.

I hope this recipe break down helps and you try this one out for yourself  :)

Best of luck!
~Carson~

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Squash Stuffing Casserole.

Ah summer time, the fruits of all your hard spring labor in the garden are becoming ripe. If you are like us you have squash coming out the ying yang. One of the most popular dishes for summer squash is casserole. I found this recipe on page 213 in "Taste of Home, Slow Cooker". I had never heard of cooking squash casserole in a slow cooker so I knew I had to see if it worked!

Ingredients and cost.
1/4 cup all purpose flour. (On Hand)
1 can condensed cream of chicken soup, undiluted. $1.19 at the IGA, I used fat free.
1 cup sour cream (8 oz) .99cents at the IGA.
2 medium yellow squash. Cut into 1/2 inch slices. (Free from our backyard garden, I also used 4 smaller squash).
1 small onion chopped. (.99 cents at the IGA)
1 cup shredded carrots. (I just sliced mine. 1.99 at the IGA)
1 package stuffing mix. (Stove Top .99 cents at the IGA)
1/2 cup butter. (On Hand)

In a large bowl, combine the flour, soup, and sour cream until blended.




Place squash, onions, and carrots into slow cooker and mix with soup/sour cream mixture.
 Combine the stuffing mixture and butter. (Note: I used a large sauce pan, having a handle makes it easier to pour into crock pot.)

Pour stuffing mixture onto squash/soup mixture in slow cooker.


Cover and cook on low for 4-5 hours or until veggies are tender. 
 Carson and I had this for supper and talk about YUMMY. It was so easy too! On the scale from 1 to 10, it was so easy I will give it a 1! Anyone can make this with very little effort! Total out of pocket cost for me was around $6.15 excluding tax. Total prep time was around 15 minutes. So if you are looking for a way to use that summer squash and you are a throw it in the crock pot and go kinda person, then this is for you!


Key Lime Pie

The recipe for this pie can be found on page 103 of Martha Stewart's "New Pie's and Tart's. We recently made this pie for a fourth of July party we attended. Due to accidentally throwing away the receipt we can't give you a true cost, plus we couldn't find key limes in East Tennessee and had to use lime juice.

This pie take's a graham cracker crust. That can be found on page 331 and we will be telling you how to make that first.

 For the crust.

12 graham cracker sheets, broken into peices.
6 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled.
3 tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt.

Preheat Oven to 375. Lightly butter a 9 inch pie plate. In a food processor, pulse graham crackers until finely ground. In a bowl combine crumbs, butter, sugar, and salt. Press mixture firmly and evenly into bottom and sides of pie plate. Bake until lightly browned, about 12 minutes. Cool completely.




Now on to the pie!!!
1 (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk.
4 large eggs, (separated)
3/4 cup fresh key lime juice. (we used bottled lime juice and added, 3 drops green and one drop yellow food coloring. That way we got the key lime color.)
1/2 cup granulated sugar.
1 lime for garnish.

1. Preheat oven to 325. In a bowl whisk to combine condensed milk, egg yolks, and lime juice.(will look kinda yucky green) Pour mixture into crust. Bake until center is set, about 17 minutes. Let cool completely.




2. Beat the granulated sugar and egg whites in a bowl of a stand mixer. Place bowl over a simmering pan of water. Stir until sugar is dissolved and mixture is warm to the touch.


3. Attach Bowl to mixer; beat on medium high speed until stiff peaks form(whatever that means) and meringue is glossy. About five minutes. Note: Not sure what a stiff peak is, also the secret to a good meringue is a SUPER CLEAN bowl.



4. Top pie with meringue, and garnish with lime zest. Note: We added a lime twist to make it look pretty.
This pie seemed to be a big hit, I snuck a  small piece and it was good, but not the best I've ever tasted. On the skill scale I would rate this a 4. It was fairly easy, the hardest part was that pesky meringue. If you like key lime give this a try, it makes a stunning pie for a gift or party.