Sunday, September 21, 2014

Best Ever Banana Nut Bread

I lured you in with my title  "Best Ever" Banana Nut Bread.  The truth is this banana bread is damn good.  All these years and what seems like a thousand recipes later, I finally stumbled on a recipe that is going to become part of my permanent file.

There is this vague recollection in the forest of my mind that banana cake was made for my birthday in my very early years. It must have stuck because I have a fondness for things banana, except for bananas foster.  There is something about setting bananas on fire, and having your bananas served up warm, wet and gooey. Sorry, I digress.

Let me end by saying if you have overripe bananas hanging around on your kitchen counter or bagged up by the dozen in the freezer, then this post serves as your inspiration to get making Banana Bread!



Banana Nut Bread
Makes on 9x5-inch Loaf
Recipe from Food and Wine


Ingredients:
3/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (3-ounces)
1-1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
3 medium overripe bananas, mashed (1-1/4 cups)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions:
1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Coat a 9x5 inch loaf pan with cooking spray.  Spread the walnuts in a pie pan and toast in the oven for 5 to 8 minutes, or until fragrant; let cool.

2.  In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the baking soda, cinnamon and salt.  In another bowl, combine the sugar, eggs and oil and beat at high speed until light-colored and creamy.  Add the mashed bananas and vanilla and beat until smooth.  Stir in dry ingredients until throughly blended.  Fold in the nuts.

3.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake in the middle of the oven for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the top is springy and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let the loaf pan cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning it out onto a rack to cool completely.  Wrap the bread in plastic and refrigerate for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 2 months.

Enjoy!
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Sunday, September 7, 2014

Big, Fat, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies


In case you are in the mood for chocolate chip cookies……And you don't have a personal recipe to call your own.



Big, Fat, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes about 18 cookies
Recipe from All Recipes


Ingredients
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup insalted butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:
1.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).  Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.

2.  Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.

3.  In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended.  Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until light and creamy.  Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended.  Stir in the chocolate chips by hand using a wooden spoon.  Drop cookie dough 1/4 cup at a time onto prepared cookie sheets.  Cookies should be about 3 inches apart.

4.  Bake for 15 to 17 minutes in the preheated oven, or until edges are lightly toasted.  Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Enjoy!
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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sunday Supper: Adoración's Spanish Paella

Paella is a classic Spanish dish that is defined as a rice stew  A dish made of saffron flavored rice with chicken, shellfish, and a variety of other ingredients cooked together to create a communal style meal, meaning that everyone finds a place around the pan to enjoy. 

Americans tend to lean into the belief that paella is served on special ocassions or as a fancy dish in a Spanish restuarant.  The reality is Spanish families prepare paella often for their families, in a simple good old-fashioned way….. At home, and on their stove top.  Sometimes with a paella pan, or a large skillet.  

Two things struck me about this classic Spanish dish.  First, it is not a complicated dish and almost any ingredient can be used in paella.  Second, this is a dish that is accessible to all cooks. There are as many way to prepare paella as there is a Sunday Sauce, the possibilities are endless. 

On a blistering hot afternoon in Madrid I sat in Adoración's kitchen to watch and learn how a Spanish family prepares Paella. Like most recipes in Spanish families they are handed down from mother to daughter, and remain timeless.  In my elementary Spanish I wrote down feversihly the ingredients,  snapped photos and wrote her directions.  I give my best effort and my heart to provide you with her recipe.

To begin, a sofrito is prepared which commonly includes garlic, onion, paprika (peppers) and tomatoes cooked in olive oil.  This creates the flavor foundation in many Spanish dishes.  Interesting, onion is commonly used in Spain but in this dish is purposefully left out.



Meats are cooked individually and then removed. The chicken and fish has been removed and calamari has been added.


When all the meats have been cooked the ingredients are returned to the pan and water or broth is added.  The rice will be added and the paella will be brought to a hard boil for several minutes and it will then be returned to a simmer.



Adoración reminded me of the importance to taste start to finish and adjust your seasoning.




The result is a beautiful classic, family style paella


Adoración's Spanish Paella 
Serves 6-8

Equipment Needed:  A round 10-12" skillet or small paella pan

Ingredients:
1/4 cup olive oil
2 bell peppers (chopped into large pieces)
1lb. white fish, cut into chunks (note: Monkfish was the fish of choice as it is an appreciated fish enjoyed often in Spain)
1-1/2 lbs. chicken breasts, cut into chunks
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2-ounces red pimento 
8-ounces small tender early green peas
8-ounces canned white albacore chunk tuna, drained
8-ounces artichokes, drained, chopped
Salt to Taste
Spanish Saffron a/k/a Spanish Red Gold
1 packet Sazón (Means "Seasoning" in Spanish. The seasoning adds flavor and also the subtle orange hue to the rice). This seasoning packet is easily found in the ethnic section of your grocery store.
1lb. fresh calamari
4 cups short grain rice
8 cups water or broth (seafood or chicken)
*Pinch of sugar to reduce the acid of the tomatoes

Directions:

1.  Heat olive oil and add bell peppers and cook until to translucent (about 3-4 minutes) Remove.  

2.  Add chicken breasts to hot oil, and season with salt.  Cook (about 3-4 minutes) browning the chicken breasts is not necessary.  Remove from heat.  

3.  Add tomatoes, a pinch of sugar, peppers, garlic, salt to taste and simmer for 3-4 minutes.  

4.  Add calamari, chicken, and fish to tomato and garlic mixture. Simmer on low heat for 5-6 minutes.  

5.  Add water, tuna, and peas.  Simmer to a boil.  Add saffron and Sazón.  

6.  Add rice, bring to a hard boil (approximately 10 minutes)  turn down temperature to a simmer for 5 minutes, and rest for another 10 minutes. Add artichokes, dress wth the pimento peppers and serve.

Enjoy!

Note:  I have been asked many times how an opportunity like this journey to Spain came to be a reality.  Over the years, our family has hosted students from Europe (Germany, Netherlands and Spain). These children spend a high school year with our family and become very much part of our family.   This past year, we hosted a wonderful child from Spain. This summer we traveled to Spain to meet his family, it was truly an absolutely amazing experience.
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Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Journey to Spain

It has taken me a couple of weeks to get my act together since returning from our journey to Spain.  There are few things greater in life than an amazing vacation spent with people that you feel that you have known all your life.  We spent a majority of our time in the city of Madrid with day trips to Toledo, Segovia, Chinchon, El Escorial. We enjoyed Madrid's National Art Museums which included Del Prado and Reine Sofia.  For soccer fans, we toured the Real Madrid stadium (Wow!). We enjoyed an evening of traditional Spanish flamenco dancing (Wow, again). We rode a subway in Madrid at 1:00 a.m..  The city was just getting cranked up for the evening. We drank coffee, enjoyed cold vermouth, the husband ventured out of his comfort zone and enjoyed baby eels, octopus, squid and barnacles (Yes, they are exactly what you think the shells that you scrape off the side of a sea wall or your boat containing a snail like creature), Spain was unbelievably hot and unbelievably beautiful.  The list goes on and on.  Since, I can only hold your attention to the post for a limited time-here are the highlights.

Let's start with Madrid.

Madrid is the capitol and the largest city in Spain. Located in the central part of the country Madrid is home to roughly 6.5 million people.  A cosmopolitan city that has preserved the look and feel of its history and architecture.




The Spaniards have never met a stranger.  Their strong sense of hospitality, warmth and friendliness is contagious. They welcome you into their families with hugs and besos (kisses) on both cheeks. And then, STOP THE PRESSES! They feed you.


Food and drink are to be enjoyed, never rushed.  Sharing a meal is about family and friends. 





It is about long and lingering conversations late into the night. Spain's economy and national politics are the important topics of the day.


The Opportunities to enjoy food, wine and friendship were endless. The family decided that it was important that we develop an appreciation for Spanish wines-that was easy. We tasted six different Spanish wines. We decided that the white grape Albariño grown in the Northwest part of Spain in Galacia was one of our favorites.

What would wine tasting be without cured iberico hams, chorizos, salamis and slices of manchego cheese?






After an evening of friendship, good wine and food

In Spain pork rules, the wine is local and olive oil is the only oil that should be used.



Fried potatoes, with fried eggs on top and then topped with iberico ham. Can you say heaven? I can. 


I had the pleasure of watching our host prepare a family style paella without fancy ingredients and a special pan.  I photographed the process and did my best to capture the recipe with pen and paper. This is a family recipe that is handed down from mother to daughter and I am going to give it my best shot in my next post to share it with you.

Until later.
Velva



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Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sunday Supper: Pollo Con Arroz Amarillo (Chicken with Yellow Rice)


The heart and soul of a Spanish home is its kitchen.  

Our family traveled to Spain this summer. We spent two weeks with our host family who shared their hospitality, culture and food, with us.  Our lives are forever changed.  I will be working on a post about our experience which included the privilege of watching our host prepare a family style paella that I would like very much to share with you.  Stay tuned!

This recipe is reminiscent of the soulful spirit of the Spanish table and highlights the flavors of the culture which includes olive oil, onion and garlic.  

A delicious one pot meal that is easy to prepare and is destined to be shared with family and friends.   If you want to "Jazz up" this meal include a homemade Autumn Sangria and flan for dessert.


Pollo Con Arroz Amarillo (Chicken with Yellow Rice)
Serves 8-10


Ingredients
1-1/2 lb.. chicken 
1 small yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1 packet of a Spanish seasoning product called Sazon (includes saffron and turmeric to provide the yellow color to the rice).
1 chicken bouillon cube
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup cooking wine
1-(16-ounces) green peas
1 (4-ounces) red pimento ( either diced, in strips or whole)
2 bay leaves
1- (8-ounces) tomato sauce
1-(12-ounces) beer 
4 cups Valencia rice (pearl rice) or regular rice if not available.
4 cups water

Directions:
Using a large skillet or Dutch oven, heat oil and brown chicken along with onions and garlic.  Add spices (Paprika through Spanish seasoning packet).  Add the liquids except the beer.  Add the uncooked rice and 1/2 of the green peas.  Stir well, cover and cook for approximately 30-45 minutes 
(the remaining peas and the pimentos are used to layer on the cooked chicken and yellow rice.)  Stir through and cover again.  If you notice the rice does not have enough liquid, add more water and reduce the heat and simmer longer until the rice is very moist.  When the rice is cooked, add the beer and stir.  The dish is ready to serve.

Enjoy!


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Sunday, August 3, 2014

Winding Down with Arugula-Proscuitto Flatbread Pizzas

It has been a crazy, busy, wonderful summer.  Time to wind down and relax.




Fire up the grill for easy to prepare flat bread pizzas



Sit, relax and enjoy.


Argula-Proscuitto Flatbread Pizzas
Serves 4
Recipe from Food Network

Ingredients:
2 pieces lavash or other flatbread, halved
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
1/2 cup grated fontina cheese (about 2 ounces)
4-ounces thinly sliced proscuitto, torn
4 cups baby arugula
1 bulb fennel, halved, cored and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons roughly chopped parsley
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup crumbled gorgonzola or other blue cheese (about 2 ounces)

Directions:
1.  Preheat a grill to medium.  Lightly brush the lavish with olive oil, then grill until marked on the bottom, about 2 minutes.  Flip the bread and immediately top with fontina.  Continue grilling until the cheese melts, about 2 minutes.  Transfer to a platter and top with the proscuitto.

2.  Combine the argula, fennel, parsley and red onion in a large bowl.  Drizzle with the vinegar and 1 tablespoon olive oil: season with salt and pepper and toss.  Pile on top of the pizzas; sprinkle with the gorgonzola.  Serve.

Enjoy!

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Scenes from my Pantry: Succotash of Fresh Corn, Lima beans, and Onions

We have been trying to eat down the refrigerator and pantry this past week.  Made a delicious summer succotash with lima beans, corn, onion, garlic, and garden tomatoes.  I am reminded how much better my body would feel if I ate simple, healthy dishes like this one more often.


Succotash of Fresh Corn, Lima Beans, Tomatoes and Onions
Makes 6 Servings
Recipe from Epicurious



Ingredients:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1-1/2 cups chopped onions
Coarse kosher salt
1 large garlic clove, minced
3 cups chopped red tomatoes (about 1-1/2 pounds)
2-1/4 cups corn kernels cut from 4 ears of corn ( preferabley 2 ears of white corn, 2 ears of yellow corn)
2 cups fresh lima beans or 10-11 ounces of frozen lima beans or baby butter beans, thawed
3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil

Directions:
Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat.  Add onion and sprinkle with coarse salt.  Saute until  soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic, stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add tomatoes, corn, and lima beans.  Reduce heat to medium-low, cover,  and simmer until corn and lima beans are tender and tomatoes are soft, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Add basil.  Serve.  

Note: Can be done 1 day ahead.  Cover and chill. Rewarm and serve.

Enjoy!


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