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Fun Breakfast Idea: Breakfast Banana Split

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Yes, there is a banana under all that granola.  ISN'T THIS THE FUNNEST BREAKFAST IDEA EVER?!?  It's so fun, I went all rogue grammar on you.  If your child reads this post, I apologize and no, funnest is not really a word.  Some things, though, go beyond proper vocabulary.  

I can't take credit for the idea; I got it from one of the people at The Green Room in Hendersonville, NC.  It was on their menu I first saw this idea, and I actually told them I was going to steal it.  I've been eager to make it and share it with you since I first saw it a couple months ago.  

The concept is incredibly simple, but healthy and satisfying: a banana is split in half and then topped with Greek yogurt, granola, and fruit.  If your sweet tooth is really amped up, add a drizzle of honey.  I left mine plain.  This is so good, and quick and easy to make.  I hope it makes your mornings a little more fun!

Breakfast Banana Split
serves 1 breakfast

1 banana, split lengthwise
1/3 cup Greek yogurt 
1/4 cup granola
1/4 cup fruit, chopped or left whole if small

On a small plate or inside a dish that can accommodate the length of the banana, place the banana.  Top it with the yogurt, granola, and fruit.  If you wish, add a drizzle of honey.  Enjoy!

Notes
  • This recipe leaves a lot of room for customizing.  Choose whatever flavor of yogurt you want.  I prefer plain.  You can also choose whatever granola and fruit.  In my case, I only had blueberries, but I bet this would be great with just about any berry, stone fruit, dried fruit, etc.
  • I used this recipe of granola sans fruit, but feel free to purchase if you don't want to make it!

Cooks Illustrated's Foolproof Pie Dough

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How was your weekend?  Mine flew by.  I understand now why when I was younger, older people (you know, old like 40) used to talk about how quickly time passed.  Now I am that old person, and I know exactly what they're talking about.  I digress.  

Want to know something kind of funny?  This is my first homemade pie crust.  I've been cooking and baking since my childhood, and regularly doing it since I graduated college.  I'm pretty daring and don't mind failing, but I never tried pie crust.  The main reason?  Once, when I called my mom for a tried-and-true recipe, she consulted her coworker and resident baking queen, who told me, "honey, just buy one!  They're so much trouble to make."  And that was that.  I bought the refrigerated, roll it out dough and would unabashedly admit that the crust was not homemade.  It's just so much quicker and easier to buy a pre-made dough.  There is no shame in that.  


But the homemade pie crust concept sat there in the back of my mind, reminding me it was still there, and it wanted its time in my kitchen.  So, one day I decided to make it, and I decided to make it right after I got my first issue of Cooks Illustrated, which was its best recipes special edition.  Titled Foolproof Pie Dough, this recipe is truly a good pie crust, easy to make, with decent room for error.  If you, like me, might want to try a pie crust from scratch, this is a good one to try.

The instructions are clear, and even though I think I took the dough a little too far in the food processor, the crust still turned out well. The dough was easy to roll out, and baked nicely.  I used part of the recipe to make a quiche, and it worked well in this application.



Foolproof Pie Dough
makes enough for a double-crusted, 9" diameter pie

2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon table salt
2 tablespoons sugar
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
1/4 cup cold vodka
1/4 cup cold water

Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses. Add butter and shortening and process until homogeneous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour). Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.

Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

Notes

  • Not being a vodka drinker, I bought two mini bottles of Absolut vodka.  One bottle didn't quite have enough liquid.  It worked well here.  I do not know how the quality of vodka affects the crust, but I chose to go with slightly higher quality stuff.  

Eggplant Involtini

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The first time I ate this dish was at an Italian restaurant called Fabio's near Hershey, PA.  If you happen to be traveling in that area, I recommend it!  I saw this dish on the menu and took a chance on it, and it is so good!  The more traditional preparation is eggplant, sliced, breaded and fried (just as in eggplant parmesan), but instead of layering them or just serving them in marinara, the eggplant is then smeared with a ricotta cheese mixture, rolled up, and baked in tomato sauce.  It's cheesy, Italian comfort food heaven.



I came home and have since made the dish a time or two, but it takes a long time to make, has several preparation steps, and it's not the healthiest.  Don't get me wrong; the original recipe is well worth the effort, but when I saw the Cooks Illustrated variation in their July/August 2014 issue, I knew it was time to bring the recipe back.

What CI does is skip the breading and frying steps, thereby saving time and calories.  The whole thing is made in the span of something like an hour and can be broken up into stages.  Funny thing?  And don't slap me for this one, but you don't even miss the breading.  Seriously.  See, the breading usually becomes a little soggy during the baking process, so the crunch is a bit lost.  If you did miss it, then you could probably sprinkle the tops of each roll with regular or panko breadcrumbs before baking and still get a similar effect.

If you have a lot of eggplant, or just love eggplant recipes, try this one.  It's a keeper!

Eggplant Involtini
adapted from Cooks Illustrated, July/August 2014

serves 4

2 medium eggplants, each approximately1 ½ half lbs.
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup ricotta cheese (recommended NOT skim ricotta)
¾ cup Pecorino Romano cheese (or Parmesan/Parmigiano Reggiano/Asiago)
½ cup bread crumbs
½ + ¼ cup fresh basil, chopped – divided
1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
Kosher Salt and Pepper
1 (28 ounces) can of diced tomatoes
3 cloves of garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon oregano
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1/4- 1/2 c grated mozzarella cheese

Pre-heat your oven to 375 F Degrees and prepare 2 baking sheets with parchment paper, lightly sprayed or oiled.
Peel the eggplants. Cut them lengthwise ½ inch thick slices. Trim the rounded ends so that they will lay flat.  Place the eggplant on the baking sheets in an even, single layer.

Brush the eggplant slices on each tray with olive oil and season with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Flip each slice and do the same thing for the other side.

Place both sheets in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until they are tender and lightly browned. To ensure even baking, switch and rotate sheets half way through the baking process.

In the mean time, make the filling. Place 1 cup of ricotta cheese , ½ cup bread crumbs, ½ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese, ¼ cup chopped fresh basil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and ½ teaspoon salt. Stir until they are all combined. Set aside.

To make the tomato sauce, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large ovenproof skillet. Add the garlic, ½ teaspoon salt, oregano, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Stir them with a wooden spatula and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes and cook in medium low heat, until it thickens. Cover and set aside.

When eggplants are baked, let them cool for 5 minutes. Do not turn the oven off. Heat the broiler.

With the widest side of the eggplant slices facing you, evenly distribute the ricotta mixture onto each slice. Starting from the widest end, gently roll each piece and place it, seam side down, in the pan with the tomato sauce.

Bring it to a simmer over medium heat. Allow it to cook for 5 minutes.  Place the skillet in the oven and broil for 5 minutes for the eggplants to be browned and the cheese to cook thoroughly.  If you want, halfway through the broil, top with about 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese.
To finish it up, sprinkle it with ¼ cup of grated Pecorino Romano and 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley or basil.

Notes

  • This is the recipe that allowed me to have leftover ricotta mixture for these bruschetta.  Any leftover filling works great as a spread for crostini/bruschetta or likely in another pasta dish. 
  • I did not love the tomato sauce I made for this (followed the recipe).  It wasn't bad, but it just didn't taste...completed.  You can of course use jarred sauce.  Less kitchen cred, but more of a time saver and sure bet.
  • If you want to make this in stages/ do some make ahead, you can make the ricotta mixture and bake off the eggplant ahead of time.  If you do that, you will want to let the ricotta soften a bit before you try to spread it over the eggplant by taking it out of the fridge about 15-30 minutes before you plan to spread it on the eggplant.  
  • The original recipe didn't call for it, but I did grate some mozzarella over the top and put it in with about 3 minutes to go in the broil.

Tomato Bruschetta With Ricotta Cheese

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This shadow in this picture looks a little like a hungry monster is about to devour this piece of bread, and that's probably not far from the truth.  This little toast is another example of how the simplest dishes can be the best, especially when you use fresh, in season produce.  We ate way more bread than we should because of this bruschetta.

Bruschetta is nothing new.  It's like Italian chips and salsa, only instead of chips, you use little pieces of toast, and instead of a salsa containing onion and pepper, it's a mixture of tomatoes and olive oil.  YUM!

The addition of ricotta cheese is actually a little bit of a fluke.  I was making eggplant involtini, and had some leftover ricotta filling, which just happened to work perfectly slathered on the toasts and topped with the tomato mixture.  

With or without the ricotta, this is still one of the most simple and delicious things I've made all summer.

Tomato Bruschetta With Ricotta Cheese
Serves several as an appetizer

1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved or quartered, depending on size
1/4 c Extra Virgin Olive Oil
A few basil leaves, cut in chiffonade (about 1 Tb.)
Bread slices (baguette works well here)
Garlic clove
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Salt and Pepper

Make your toast:  Preheat oven to 350.  Arrange bread on a baking sheet (I line mine with foil for easier cleanup) and drizzle both sides with olive oil.  Toast in oven, flipping halfway through, about 10 minutes.  You may need to adjust time for your own oven.  Remove and rub lightly with a garlic clove.

In a medium bowl, place your tomatoes, about 2 Tb olive oil, and your basil leaves.  Salt and pepper to taste.  I probably put in 1/2 tsp. salt and 4 grinds of the pepper mill.  Stir and allow to sit for a few minutes.

In a small bowl, stir together ricotta, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste.  

When ready to serve, smear the ricotta cheese onto the toasts and top with the tomato mixture.  

Make Ahead:  The tomatoes are best when made not too long before serving, but you could toast the bread and make the ricotta mixture ahead of time.



Zucchini Ribbons With Almond Pesto

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Hats off to Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen for this recipe!  I found it in her cookbook while looking for ways to use zucchini, and boy is this one a treat.  It's perfect for those hot summer days when you feel like you break a sweat moving, let alone cooking.

In case you didn't know, zucchini plants can produce A LOT of zucchini.  If you grow it, be prepared to either be the best or the worst neighbor with how much you will give away.  In addition to giving some away, our mountain of freshly picked zucchini begged for creative ways to be used, and this recipe is, for me, among the more unique.


This recipe takes thinly sliced zucchini and mixes it with an almond pesto or dressing that is pretty divine in its own right.  I could have eaten the pesto with a spoon.  This really elevates the zucchini to a whole new level.   It's fresh and light.  It's a perfect side for grilled foods.  It would also be great for a picnic or potluck because it can be room temperature and not spoil.  


This recipe is simple to make and comes together pretty quickly.  It uses a vegetable peeler or mandoline and a food processor, so your work is minimal.  If you have a pile of zucchini silently screaming to be used before it goes bad, try this.  You won't be disappointed.

Zucchini Ribbons With Almond Pesto
from Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

1/2 cup almonds, toasted and cooled
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 small garlic clove, peeled and crushed
Pinch of red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup olive oil
2 pounds medium zucchini, trimmed (about 4 medium, thin and longer if you can find them)

Grind almonds, Parmesan, garlic and red pepper flakes in a food processor until they are finely chopped. Add the lemon juice, salt and olive oil and pulse a few times until incorporated. Pour the dressing into a large salad bowl and let it roll up and around the sides.

Peel the zucchini with a vegetable peeler or mandolin and place zucchini ribbons in the dressing-coated bowl. Toss the ribbons gently (your hands work best) attempting to coat the zucchini as evenly as possible. Serve at room temperature.

Weekend Breakfast: Dutch Baby

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Some foods have the weirdest names, don't they?  Thankfully Shakespeare is right, for what's in a name?  This breakfast treat is not a baby anything, but it is so good, and a nice departure from the normal breakfast treats.  It's actually fast to whip up on a weekday (if you have a little time), but best enjoyed on a day when you can be leisurely and really savor it.  Make some coffee to sip with the dutch baby, and, well, I could just sit there all day.



I had never heard of dutch babies until a few years ago when I got Alton Brown's cookbook, I'm Just Here for More Food.  I didn't actually attempt one until earlier this year when I found a recipe on Pinterest.  As with all recipes for the same dish, there are slight variations in ingredients and ratios, and this particular recipe happened to fit what I had on hand.




Dutch Babies are described as a cross between a crepe and a popover, and they are really fun to make for the "wow factor" because a very wet batter goes into the oven and a puffy, golden piece of tastiness comes out.

Dutch Baby
from Camille Styles blog

feeds 2 a big portion or 4 a more polite portion

3 large eggs
2/3 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup flour
1 tablespoon butter
optional garnishes: powdered sugar, butter, lemon wedges, fresh berries, maple syrup

Place a 10″ cast-iron skillet on the middle rack of the oven, and preheat to 450 degrees.
In a large bowl, whisk eggs together vigorously until light and frothy, about 2 minutes. Add milk, sugar, salt and vanilla, and whisk until combined. Sift in flour, and whisk just until smooth. Let rest for 5 – 10 minutes.

Carefully remove the skillet from the oven, add the butter and let melt completely, swirling the pan to allow the butter to coat the entire bottom. Pour batter into hot pan, and place back in the oven, shutting door quickly so oven loses as little heat as possible.

Bake for 15 minutes, until the sides have puffed up a lot, and the entire top of the pancake is golden brown. Remove from oven and use a spatula to loosen the edges of the pancake. Transfer to a serving platter, dust with powdered sugar and cut into large wedges. Serve immediately.

Notes

  • I am pretty cautious about deviating from baking recipes, but slight deviations I've made include using lower fat milk and subbing in some of the vanilla for orange extract.  Really good!
  • Twice I have forgotten to let the batter rest, and it turned out fine.

Snickers Ice Cream Cake....AKA Enemy of Swimsuit Season, A PinterestFind

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Have you ever heard that rule about clothes, that when you buy something new, something old has to go?  The idea behind is two-fold; you won't end up with so many clothes that your closet takes over your life, causing you to forget what you own, and you become more purposeful in your shopping if you know you're going to have to give up something to buy that something new.  

I try to be like that with Pinterest.  Sort of.  My rule is that I won't pin it unless I have some sort of plan or desire to make it, and I have a real, legitimate plan to make everything I pin.


Stop laughing!  I'll get there, eventually.  I saw this Snickers Ice Cream cake pin one day, and pinned it.  The original photos were so striking, and, well, Snickers and Ice Cream?!  No need to say more.  


I had the occasion to make it last week for my father-in-law's birthday dinner.  Birthdays are a big deal to me.  Everyone needs a birthday cake.  This ice cream cake is delicious, pretty, and over the top rich.  Did I mention it was also easy and can be made in just minutes, ahead of time?  Remind yourself to cut little slices.

adapted from Delish Dish/Better Homes and Gardens

2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs (I ground up non-name brand cream filled, chocolate sandwich cookies in the food processor)
1 stick butter, melted
1 quart vanilla ice cream
1 quart chocolate ice cream
1 bag mini Snickers (or maybe 5-6 full size bars), unwrapped and coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a bowl, mix together the cookie crumbs and the butter.  Spoon into a springform pan (9 inch diameter and 3 inch height) and press onto bottom and up the sides of the pan to form the crust.  Bake for 8-10 minutes or until crust is set.  Let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes, and freeze at least 30 minutes.

About 15 minutes prior to taking crust out of freezer, take out vanilla ice cream and allow it to soften on counter.  Remove crust from freezer, and spread softened ice cream in an even layer over crust. Sprinkle with an even layer of the Snickers, reserving a couple handfuls (1/3- 1/2 cup) for the topping.  Return to freezer and freeze at least 1 hour.

About 15 minutes prior to adding the chocolate layer, take the chocolate ice cream out of the freezer to allow it to soften.  Then remove the cake from the freezer and spread the chocolate ice cream in an even layer over the vanilla ice cream and Snickers layers, smoothing the top.  Cover and freeze at least 4 hours.

Remove the ice cream cake about 20 minutes before you want to serve it.  Just prior to serving, top with the remaining Snickers and more cookie crumbs, if you desire.  Cut with a larger knife and serve.

Notes

  • I don't have a springform pan.  I used a cheesecake pan, which also has a removable bottom.  The springform pan would likely produce neater sides, but any pan with a removable bottom and at least 3 inch sides works.
  • I don't know if the original recipe intended me to use fake Oreo crumbs, but I would not add sugar to the crust if you go with the sandwich cookie option.  Also, if you process the whole bag into crumbs, you will have more than enough for the crust, a nice little topping layer, and some left over.
  • The crust was a little greasy.  I would probably cut back on the butter next time, starting with 1 Tb. at a time.  I have not tested this, though.
  • The crust is rock hard when frozen.  You want a good knife and some elbow grease.
  • I wait until the end to top the ice cream cake with the other Snickers so that they aren't too hard.