Sunday, March 30, 2014

Banana "Whippie"- Simple Breakfast Smoothie

We used to call them Banana Whippies.
I think my Mom invented that name to make them sexy and appealing to her kids.
I know why Mom!
They were cheap, easy, healthy and we could drink them on the way to the bus.
I'm onto your tricks. 
It only took me 40 years.

We drank these all the time for breakfast as kids.
The trick is the frozen banana.
Except, here's the trick, PEEL and then freeze the bananas.
Peeling a frozen banana isn't hard per se, but not peeling it at all is easiest.
Get it?
One other benefit, a frozen banana is very easy to break in half, or into chunks making it easier to blend.  I just break it in the bag, so I don't even get my hands dirty.
I like that part. I don't like dirty, sticky hands.

I've always hated ice cubes in my smoothies, it waters it down and you always, always, always get a rock hard hunk of ice.  Not fun.  

At the bottom of the post, I will give you a bunch of variations of this idea.  You got it, run with the idea.

I know some of you will say EWWW over the raw egg in this.
If so, leave it out.
It's really just a way to add extra protein and "staying power" for your morning.
I ate a lot of raw eggs when I was a kid, and I mostly turned out OK. 

Makes 1

1 frozen banana
1 cup of milk (sub almond milk or coconut milk, if desired)
1 raw egg (optional, and not recommended for small kids or others with poor immune systems)
1/2 tsp flavoring, if desired, like vanilla, almond, rum,
A sprinkle of cinnamon or nutmeg, if desired

Put the frozen banana in the blender, add the egg and milk.  Add flavoring, if using, and a sprinkle of spice. Blend until smooth.

If you banana's start to look like this, peel them and freeze them in a ziploc bag.  However, I know that some people prefer speckled bananas... I am not one of those people. 



Banana Coconut- Use coconut milk, or coconut water.  If you are OK with texture in your smoothie, add some shredded coconut even.  I'd just add some coconut flavoring.

Peanut Butter Banana- Add 1-2 Tbsp to the above recipe

Strawberry Banana- Add fresh, or frozen, strawberries to the above recipe. 

Mango Banana- My personal fave, add fresh, or frozen, mango.  I buy my Mango already frozen at Trader Joes, it makes it easy for lots of things besides smoothies.  For example Mango Salsa

Chocolate Banana- Add 1-2 Tbsp of cocoa powder to the above recipe, or even Hersey's chocolate syrup, if you have it.

Other Additions?
Wheat germ, flax seed, sliced raw almonds, agave syrup

OR, better yet, make a BBC Cocktail out of your frozen banana.  LOL, but not for breakfast, OK?

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Chicken Pesto Panini Sandwich

I know that a sandwich may not really be a recipe, however, maybe you need some inspiration. Chicken pesto, mozzarella, arugula and tomatoes make a fantastic grilled sandwich, and I just needed to share.
I usually have some sort of cooked, rotisserie chicken in my fridge, or freezer.  
I buy a roast chicken from Costco every time we go there. 
Every time.  
For a very good reason, for $4.99 it's the best deal around, and I use the chicken carcass regularly to make my own stock for the freezer (here's my recipe and technique Chicken Stock. Best, Easy, Homemade).  If we don't eat the chicken the day we bought it, then I use latex gloves to tear the meat from the bones and save it for another use, usually adding to soups, sandwiches or enchilada type dishes.  If you need inspiration there's more ideas for a roast chicken at the bottom of this posting.

Makes 2 big sandwiches

1 Tbsp pesto
1 1/2 cup rotisserie chicken, cubed
2 sliced tomatoes, drained on a paper towel to remove some of the moisture
1 cup mozzarella shredded
1-2 cup spinach or arugula
4 slices sourdough bread
Butter, or olive oil
Salt and Pepper

Mix the cubed, or shredded chicken with the pesto sauce. Add a bit of salt and pepper.

Heat your panini maker, or a frying pan to medium low heat, add the bread (butter or olive oil side down) add the cheese, top with freah arugula or spinach, then chicken pesto mixture, sliced tomatoes, more cheese and topped with more bread.  Close the panini maker and grill for about 5 minutes.  If using a fry pan, use a heavy dish to hold the sandwich down, and carefully flip to grill the other side.

*Remember, you need cheese on both sides of the bread to make sure you "glue" the sandwich together.

What else could you do with a roast chicken?

Buffalo Chicken Enchiladas
California Chicken Salad with Avocado & Grapefruit
Chicken Pot Pie Soup
Chicken White Bean Chili
Chicken Tortilla Soup
Malayasian Curry with 10 Boy Condiments
Whole Wheat Asian Noodle Salad
Chicken Stock. Best, Easy, Homemade

Here's what;s been happening on my blog on this date over the years...

One year ago:  Cacio e Pepe   (travel post and recipe)
Two years ago:   Meat Anyone?  Trip to Hamburg (travel post) 
Three years ago:   Cous Cous Black Bean Salad

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Creamy Baked Asparagus with Dubliner Cheese

Need an easy way to make a springtime side dish ahead of time?
Maybe something for Easter, which isn't that far away.
Here's just the one.
This appealed to me because who doesn't want a creamy, cheesy asparagus that's easy to prepare?
I found this idea on Pinterest, I thought I would give it a try as I had all the ingredients on hand.  Of course, I took some liberties with the recipe, the first one was not adding the egg yolk (as requested in the original) as the sauce was already so thick, it didn't need it. I also adjusted the ratios so that the sauce was thinner and more enjoyable to eat. 
Here's the original recipe.

Serves 4-6

1 bunch asparagus, trimmed of woody ends
2 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp flour
1 cup milk
1/4 tsp of dry, powdered mustard
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
1/4 – 1/2 tsp. salt
Black pepper, to taste
1 1/2 cups Dubliner, or White cheddar, grated

Preheat oven to 400° F. wίth rack ίn center of oven, and lίne a bakίng sheet wίth parchment paper or non-stίck foil. Ίf your asparagus ίs thick, blanch the asparagus ίn a large pan of salted water for one mίnute, remove and refresh ίn ίce water or mίcrowave on a plate for about 90 seconds. Ίf your asparagus ίs thίn, you’re probably good to go as ίs. Spread the asparagus out on parchment on bakίng sheet. Set asίde.

Ίn a medίum sauce pan, melt the butter over medίum heat. Add the flour and whίsk, stίrrίng constantly for 1-2 mίnutes untίl lίghtly golden. Remove the pan from the heat and gradually whίsk ίn the mίlk to form a smooth sauce. Add mustard, Worcestershίre sauce and salt. Return to the heat, stίr and sίmmer for 2-3 mίnutes untίl thίckened.     Taste and add more salt, as needed. Season wίth freshly ground pepper.
 Pour sauce over the mίddle of the asparagus. (My sauce is a bit thick, so I adjusted my recipe above so that your sauce will not be this thick).

Top wίth the grated cheddar cheese. Bake at 400 ° F. for 10-12 mίnutes, then move rack to upper part of oven, swίtch your oven to broίl and broίl untίl the sauce ίs bubbly and golden. Top wίth a bίt more freshly ground pepper and serve ίmmedίately.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Lazy Girl Crock Pot Chicken Cacciatore

I'd never made chicken cacciatore before, but somehow it was just calling to me to try.
I had people coming for dinner, so why not?
I love a good red sauce with veggies and meat, so chicken and mushrooms seemed like the thing to do. I love an easy, hearty dinner that pleases a crowd.  Here's the one.

I used huge sliced portabello mushrooms which were a very meaty choice, and I later considered you could even make a vegetarian cacciatore with more veggies if you used all portabellos instead of chicken.  Just an idea.

My photo isn't too great above, but I had a dining room full of people, and a glass of wine in my hand when I took this.  I think that shadow is my big head. 

(I show whole tomatoes and a larger can of tomato sauce, 
but do use crushed tomatoes and a smaller can of sauce or you may have too much sauce.)

Serves 6

12 chicken thighs,bone-in with skin on
16 oz. sliced mushrooms, crimini or button
1 onion, sliced 
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
2 small carrots, peeled and sliced
5 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
1 cup red or white wine
1 14 oz canned tomato sauce
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 Tbsp pesto, or 1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp oregano
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
Fresh Italian parsley
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Season chicken with salt, pepper and sprinkled oregano. 

Heat a heavy cast iron skillet, drizzled with olive oil.
Place chicken skin side down and do not move it until it reaches a deep golden brown and it's easy to turn, brown other side for a few minutes. Remove chicken and set aside.

Add mushrooms, onions, bell pepper, carrots, garlic, salt and pepper to taste, saute for 5 minutes until they start to soften.  Add to the crockpot.
Add wine and crushed tomatoes and tomato sauce.
Toss in 1 teaspoon of salt, pepper and pesto or dried basil.
Place the chicken on top and add any of the juices.
Cover and cook for 4-5 on High, or 8 hours on low.
Garnish with fresh parsley.
Serve with pasta, polenta or warm crusty bread.


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Almond "Magic" Cake

I had to stop and read a recipe for "magic cake".
Looks like you might have too.
Something kind of compelling about it. 
Everyone needs a little of that in their life, but add magic AND a little cake?
Yeah, sign me up.
The blog I saw it on, Jo Cook's, does a great job showing what to do with her recipe and was my inspiration. However, when I read it, I immediately thought it would be fantastic with almond flavoring and almonds.

The magical part?
The simple batter separates into three layers while it bakes.
It's got a dense crust, a custard like middle and a fluffy top.
I served this last night to a group of six, with unanimous approval by a bunch of people who don't always eat dessert.
Not too sweet, not too rich, just a simple, yummy little dessert.
I'm a major burnt cream fan, and this had some of the same traits that appeal to me.
By all means, try her other versions (vanilla, chocolate, butterscotch) or come up with your own. This would be fantastic with a little fresh berry sauce too.
Serve warm or cold.

NOTE- Below it mentions having the eggs and milk at room temp, just put the eggs in warm water for 5 minutes, and microwave your milk for 30-40 seconds.

Serves about 9

4 eggs (separate yolks from whites) at room temperature
1 tsp almond extract
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
3/4 cup flour
2 cups milk, lukewarm
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
Powdered sugar for dusting cake

Preheat oven to 325 F degrees. 
Grease a 8 inch x 8 inch baking dish.
Separate eggs and add the egg whites to a mixer and mix until egg whites are stiff. Place egg whites in a bowl and set aside.

Beat the egg yolks with the sugar until light. Add butter and almond extract and continue beating for another minute or two after which you can add the flour and mix it in until fully incorporated.

Slowly start adding the milk and beat until everything is well mixed together. Add the egg whites, a third at a time and gently beat them in using a spatula, repeat until all egg whites are incorporated. The egg whites don't fully incorporate, but don't worry about that, it all works out in the oven. The batter is quiet thin, again... it's fine.

Pour batter into baking dish and bake for about 50-60 minutes or until the top is lightly golden. The baking time could vary greatly depending on the oven, so take a peek at around 40 minutes and see how it looks. Sprinkle some powdered sugar and toasted almonds while it cools.


Friday, March 14, 2014

Guinness Chocolate Shake

Happy almost St Paddy's day to you.
How about a boozy chocolate shake?
I saw this last year on some restaurant's cocktail menu, and knew I needed to try it.
Chocolate, Guiness and Whiskey?  Why yes, I do think that sounds like a nice idea for some fun.

While dark stout and whiskey are not common additions to milk shakes, I think you will be very happy with this mixture.  The rich taste of the beer, lends itself nicely to chocolate. 
And the whiskey?
Yes, why it does lend itself nicely to lots of stuff.

I used about half the beer in my mixture, but if you wanted your mixture like a sippable cocktail martini, go ahead and add it all. You could serve these in beer glasses, or pour into a martini glass.  You choose, and may the luck of the Irish be with you.

(I guess my Guinness glasses are in the dishwasher...)

Makes two BIG shakes, or 4 small cocktails

1 bottle of Guinness (you'll use about half)
2 oz Jameson Irish Whiskey, other other brand
1 pint chocolate ice cream (or more, for a thicker shake)

Add ice cream to the blender, add beer and whiskey and blend until smooth.  Top with whip cream and chocolate syrup if you want to make it super fancy.

My trick?  Cut your ice cream container in quarters with a huge knife.  WAAaaay easier than scooping.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Wasabi Salmon with Orange Glaze

It all started with my posting for Sriracha Salmon, when a old family friend told me about Wasabi Salmon.  
It was like TWO ingredients, I guess three if you add the salmon.
How could it be that simple?
I questioned her... shouldn't you add sesame oil, or garlic, or ponzu vinegar?
Nope, she said, just soy sauce and wasabi paste.
She told me to try it the simple way first, and add stuff next time if I wanted to play around with it.
Ok.... So I Googled it, as I am wont to do, to see what else was out there.
And, lo and behold, Emeril (my buddy...) has a recipe that people like, but most complain as the sauce is "too complicated".
Have I mentioned that I hate complicated recipes?
Well, I do.
So here's my take on on simplifying the sauce.
The sauce was very easy and really good on broccoli too. 

As a side note, you do NOT need the sauce on this salmon because it is very yummy without it.  It's up to you.

Serves 2

3 Tbsp soy
2 Tbsp wasabi
2 pieces of salmon

Marinate salmon with the soy sauce and wasabi.  I added it all to a ziploc bag and let it sit about 20-30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400, Bake (or grill) for about 10 minutes until done. 

Sauce (makes about 1/3 cup)
1/3 cup orange juice
1/3 cup white wine
2 Tbsp cold butter, salted

Over medium heat, add orange juice and wine to a saucepan.  Simmer, stirring, until it is reduced by half.  Add the cold butter and stir.  The butter makes the sauce creamy and thickens it slightly.

Here's a couple photos of what I did:

It looks kind of ugly, but it's effective to marinate on all sides without having to turn it over.

Here's the sauce as I added the butter, keep stirring.

Here's the salmon, just out of the oven.  See? It's starting to sweat...

I had some mandarins that tasted good but kind of dry, so I squeezed them for their juice and the sauce.  Any kind of orange juice would work.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Refrigerated Pickled Green Beans

I love to buy those little french green beans at Costco.
However, a 2lb bag is quite a bit for two people to eat as they go bad so quickly.
I mean really, how many beans can two people eat?
Sometimes I throw half of them in a freezer ziploc and freeze them, other times I make a batch (or even a half batch) of these pickled green beans.

These are great to snack on, garnish a Bloody Mary or give as gifts too.
They must be kept chilled, so if you give them as a gift, be sure to write that on the lid, or the tag, so people don't forget.

Even if you have never canned anything before this is an easy way to start.  I do think that you could can these, but I wanted to keep the beans fresh and crunchy and I was concerned that cooking in a water bath canning kettle would cook the beans too much.

FYI- I made these once with all vinegar and no wine because I really like tangy, however it was too much, too strong, and it caused an acidic chemical reaction in the garlic turning it BLUE!!! Live and learn, just use the wine! Want to read more, find an explanation here.

Makes about 8 jars (I used 12oz tall jars)

2 lbs. of small French Green Beans
4 cups white vinegar
4 cups white wine (something cheap, I used a sauvignon blanc)
8 tsp salt
8 tsp sugar* (optional)
8 hot red peppers (or whole dried peppers or red pepper flakes)
8-16 fresh garlic cloves
4-8 tsp whole black peppercorns
4 tsp red pepper flakes

Add the beans to clean, sterilized jars. Add garlic, peppercorns, pepper flakes and dried or fresh peppers to each jar.
Over high heat, bring wine and vinegar to a boil.  Add salt and sugar and stir until dissolved.  Remove from heat and pour over beans in the jars. Add lids and screw tops.  Let cool for an hour.  Refridgerate until ready to use.  Ready to eat after 1 week.
Keeps for 2-3 months in the fridge.