Peanut Butter Banana Bread


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So I rarely have any leftover bananas, let alone enough to make things with almost overripe ones.  Imagine my glee when, after a Zumba Fitness event, I was able to take home a whole bunch of bananas!  I let them sit on my counter all week to ripen, and on Saturday, I made banana bread.  Having had your standard, run of the mill banana bread, I wanted to diversify a little, and decided to turn to last August's issue of Cooking Light, where they featured at least three or four variations on banana bread. 

The recipe comes together fairly easily and like most other quick breads, via the muffin method.  I think this bread is better after one, maybe even two days, which I know sounds crazy, but the first day I couldn't really taste banana or peanut butter.  The bread wasn't my favorite, though- it has that sort of low fat texture that can tend toward the more rubbery side of things.  It did, however, remain moist through about five days, when the last piece was eaten, and I liked the incorporation of the ground flax seed.  I am posting it because maybe you're looking for a lower fat alternative, or maybe you will love it.  To each his own, right?

I also learned the lesson the hard way that my oven is...hard to deal with.  I should have turned it down about 25 degrees lower than what it specified and then watched the time as well.  As it is, I baked it about 8 minutes less than what the recipe suggested.  At 50 minutes total baking time, the outside was done and too brown while the center was still very wet.  Sigh.  Either way, this isn't a bad recipe, so feel free to try it if you want your banana bread with a low fat twist. 

Peanut Butter Banana Bread
from August 2010 Cooking Light

1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana
1/3 cup plain fat-free yogurt
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
6 3/4 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
2 tablespoons chopped dry-roasted peanuts
Cooking spray

1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon 1% low-fat milk
1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter

Preheat oven to 350°.

To prepare bread, combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed. Add granulated and brown sugars; beat until blended.

Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (through allspice) in a small bowl. Add flour mixture to banana mixture; beat just until blended. Stir in nuts. Pour batter into a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 1 hour and 5 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven; cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack. Remove bread from pan; cool.

To prepare glaze, combine powdered sugar, milk, and 1 tablespoon peanut butter in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle glaze over bread.

Greek Turkey Burgers


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Sorry for the picture- just when I think I've improved on those photography skills even in the slightest bit, I forget to take a picture of the final recipe, all assembled, and then a picture like this comes along. 

I've had this recipe in the queue since I received the July 2010 issue of Southern Living.  It came right around the time my friend Jordana invited us all over and served similar burgers, which were great.  Recently I went to Shelby's newest burger restaurant, Newt's (highly recommend it if you live near Shelby, NC!) and had a Greek style turkey burger as well, and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since then.  This weekend, with Drew at work, the time for this recipe to have its time in the sun had arrived.

If you've never eaten a burger made with meat other than beef, you have to brace yourself and tell yourself that it's not supposed to taste like beef.  I think that's where people get in trouble with beef subs- nothing tastes like beef, so if you're expecting beefy taste from any other meat, you're just setting up the dish for failure.

That disclaimer out of the way, this turkey burger is a treat.  It's loaded with feta cheese and has a nice, light feel.  When topped with the cucumber sauce, it's beyond a fulfillment of my memory of the Newt's burger.

I'm posting it with the few changes I made; the title of the recipe is a link that will take you to the original recipe. 

Greek Turkey Burger
adapted from Southern Living

1 lb ground turkey
1- 4 oz package crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 tsp dried oregano (or 2 tsp fresh)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup grated cucumber
1- 6 oz. container plain Greek yogurt
1 Tb. chopped fresh mint
1 clove garlic, minced, pressed, or grated
1/2 tsp. salt
4 hamburger buns, split and toasted

Preheat a grill pan or skillet to medium high.  In a large bowl, combine the turkey, feta, onion, oregano, and salt, mixing lightly to combine.  Shape into four equal sized patties. 

Coat the pan or skillet with cooking spray or a light brushing of oil and grill patties 5-8 minutes on each side, or until the interior of the burger registers 170 degrees or there's no pink in the middle.

Stir together the cucumber, yogurt, mint, garlic, and salt in a small bowl. 

Serve the burgers on the toasted buns topped with your Greek yogurt sauce and any other condiments you may enjoy.  


Swiss Chard Ravioli


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For two years I watched Food Network chef Giada de Laurentis make pasta from wonton wrappers, and one appealed to me so much I even copied off the recipe.  It'd be another two or three years before I'd make my first filled pasta dish, butternut squash tortellini.  It's funny how it can take a while to try a new technique or type of food in the kitchen.  Today I'm posting on what I think would be a little easier, more mainstream pasta dish: swiss chard ravioli.  It's your standard ricotta based ravioli, but with swiss chard mixed in rather than just cheese or even spinach, and since last year we had a bumper crop of swiss chard, I tried several chard recipes, and I really liked this one.  I also like to dress it simply, with a drizzle of olive oil, but a good marinara would be an excellent topping as well. 

Years ago when I had Food Network, I thought making your own pasta was extraneous, but now that I've become a little more adventurous and have actually tried it, it's fun and it's easy.  Don't get me wrong, it can be laborious, but it'd be a good activity for kids or friends alike, and wonton wrappers (found near produce in most grocery stores) are the perfect "pasta" sheets to fill.  There's also something to be said for making your own pasta- those are some nice culinary bragging rights. 

This recipe is a variation of one from Lidia Bastianich's Lidia Cooks From the Heart of Italy.  Her recipe is for tortelli, which is like ravioli, but bigger.  In my case I didn't make her dough and instead used wonton wrappers. 

Ravioli With Swiss Chard Filling
adapted from Lidia Bastianich

3 lbs. swiss or rainbow chard, stemmed and sliced crosswise into narrow ribbons, about 1/2 inch wide
1 lg egg, lightly beaten
Kosher salt, to taste
8 oz. fresh ricotta, drained
1 cup grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (or parmesan)
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 package wonton wrappers or squares

In a large pot, bring 5-6 quarts of water to a boil.  Heap all the chard into the pot and stir, gradually submerging the strips.  Return the water to a boil and adjust the heat to keep it gently bubbling.  Simmer until the chard is tender, about 10 minutes.  Pour the strips into a colander to drain and cool off and then squeeze out as much water as you can.  Pile the chard into a large bowl.

When the chard is completely cool, add a pinch of salt to the beaten egg and pour it over the chard.  Toss to incorporate.  Scatter the cheeses and nutmeg on top and toss until thoroughly blended. 

Lay out individual wonton wrappers onto a sheet pan.  Keep any wonton wrappers not on the sheet pan covered so as not to dry out.  Drop tablespoonfuls of ricotta and chard filling into the center of each wonton wrapper.  Using your finger or a small pastry brush, brush two sides of one wrapper at a time and fold over to seal.  You can make these raviolis into triangles or rectangles.  You can even make big raviolis by placing one wonton square over the other.  Repeat until all squares are used up or filling is gone.  At this point, freeze the ravioli on the sheet pan and then place into a freezer bag or container or prepare them for eating. 

To prepare the ravioli, place ravioli in boiling water and boil until they float to the top.  Serve with olive oil, chopped nuts, and parmesan cheese or marinara sauce. 

Asian Slaw Salad


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I am on a neverending quest to keep my lunches interesting.  Since I work 25 minutes from home and don't want to go out to lunch every day, I bring my lunch most days.  I am not a sandwich-every-day kind of person, so I am always up for new ways to keep my lunches on the appealing side rather than making lunch banal.  I'm glad to add a new one to the repertoire, my Asian slaw salad.  I developed this recipe after reading several utilizing everything from pre-packaged slaw to ramen noodle soup mix packets.  Yuck!  At the base, however, each recipe was fairly similar and I liked the fresh ingredients as well as the balance of vegetables and protein.  I think (hope) my recipe strikes a nice balance between freshness and convenience. 

Asian Slaw Salad
serves 3-4 as an entrée

1-2 cups chopped or pulled cooked chicken (rotisserie chicken, anyone?)
1 large or 2 small red bell peppers, sliced thin lengthwise (think julienned like french fries)
1/2 bunch green onions, sliced thin (think small, thin rounds like a frisbee)
1/2 cup almons, chopped or slivered
1 large carrot, shredded
1 medium napa cabbage (about 1.5 lb), shredded or sliced very thin
1- 3 oz. package ramen noodles, crushed (discard seasoning packet)
1 Tb. creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup asian sesame salad dressing (see notes)

Combine your carrot and cabbage and sit them in a strainer or collander for about an hour to allow the excess moisture to dry out.  Discard liquid.  Place the carrot and cabbage in a large bowl and add the bell pepper, onions, almonds, chicken, and ramen noodles.  Toss all ingredients to combine. 

In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the dressing and the peanut butter.  If serving all the salad at once, pour the dressing over the salad and toss to combine; serve.  If portioning the salad out to be eaten over several meals, leave the dressing and salad separate and only add as much dressing as you desire, tossing to combine. 

  • On salad dressings- I used Olde Cape Cod brand's all natural Sesame and Ginger salad dressing.  Other recipes used other brands, and some even made a dressing utilizing the ramen noodle seasoning packet.  Feel free to search asian salads to find what works for you, but I liked that the dressing is easy to make while I can still somewhat control the ingredients. 
  • On chicken- I almost never have chicken in my freezer or fridge, which I know makes me sort of odd.  If you want to cook chicken breasts and chop them yourself, feel free.  This is a great use, though, of a rotisserie chicken. 

Mac and Cheese


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Is there anything better than a good helping of macaroni and cheese?  So simple, yet so satisfying.  It doesn't matter how haute my cuisine may become, mac and cheese will always be near the top of my "all time favorites" list.  I smile to think about it, but as a kid I felt like we were really reaching into the richness of the food world when my mom would make Velveeta Shells and Cheese.  I loved that package of viscous Velveeta cheese, which would be squeezed out and mixed in with pasta shells.  Its ochre color and sharp taste mixed with creaminess made my eyes roll back in my head.  I could have eaten it every day. 

Now that I am a little more concerned about what I eat, the Velveeta box is nowhere to be found in the house, but thankfully, mac and cheese is still welcome.  This recipe is my go-to recipe when I want mac and cheese, and it is one of the first recipes I started making on a somewhat regular basis when I became a functioning member of society and lived in my apartment. 

A word on the mac and cheese: there are two schools of thought with mac and cheese.  One school likes the mac and cheese baked like a casserole, with a crunchy topping.  The other school (the better one, in my opinion), likes the mac and cheese creamy and uniform throughout.  This recipe is a stove top version, and is that creamy, uniform cheesy goodness dish. 

Stove Top Mac and Cheese
from Alton Brown's Good Eats

1/2 pound elbow macaroni
4 tablespoons butter
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh black pepper
3/4 teaspoon dry mustard
10 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded

In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente and drain. Return to the pot and melt in the butter. Toss to coat.
Whisk together the eggs, milk, hot sauce, salt, pepper, and mustard. Stir into the pasta and add the cheese. Over low heat continue to stir for 3 minutes or until creamy.

Grilled Honey Mustard Chicken and Onions


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You know, it's funny how I can get into a sort of food rut without meaning to.  Drew and I are not the "it's Monday, so it must be meatlof night" kind of people.  I try at least one new recipe a week to keep things fresh, so we're not in a rut in the traditional sense, but there are just some things that I forget to include.  These are pretty common things, like honey mustard and bbq chicken.  There's something you can chuckle at from this blog- foods people eat everyday are completely new and revolutionary to me. 

This weekend we made a recipe from the September issue of Everyday Food, Grilled honey-mustard chicken with onions and spinach salad, and boy was it good.  It's one of those so good because of its simplicity type meals.  The friends we invited over enjoyed it, and Drew and I have been enjoying the leftovers as much as we did the initial dish.  The recipe features few ingredients, a quality of which I'm always a fan, and the honey mustard is homemade and just that- honey and mustard.  Nothing else.  The spinach salad that accompanies the onions and chicken is a great pairing and the vinaigrette complements the honey mustard greatly.  In fact, I used the leftover chicken and onion and put it on top of a bed of spinach and tomato.  Perfect salad!

My mustard was a bit strong for us, so we added a lot more honey- maybe twice the amount written or more.  Maybe we're just like Buddy the Elf and have the compulsion to put sweet in everything.  I also used white wine vinegar in place of sherry vinegar.  Oh, and if you are feeding four or more big eaters, you want more than 2 chicken breasts.  We used a combo of thighs and breasts. 

Grilled Honey-Mustard Chicken with Onions and Spinach Salad
from Everyday Food, Sept 2011

1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus more for brushing
4 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon honey
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (2 pounds total)
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 medium yellow onions, cut into 1/2-inch rounds
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
5 cups baby spinach (5 ounces)
2 medium tomatoes, cut into wedges

Heat a grill or grill pan to medium-high. Clean and lightly oil hot grill. In a small bowl, stir together mustard and 2 tablespoons honey. Reserve 2 tablespoons honey mustard for tomorrow's lunch. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Grill until browned and cooked through, 12 to 15 minutes, flipping once. Brush with half the remaining honey mustard and cook 1 minute. Transfer chicken to a cutting board, tent with foil, and let rest 5 minutes. Cut 2 chicken breasts into thin slices and transfer to a serving platter. Reserve 2 chicken breasts for tomorrow's lunch.

Brush onions with vegetable oil, season with salt and pepper, and grill until browned and tender, 7 to 9 minutes, flipping once. Brush onions with remaining honey mustard and cook 1 minute. Reserve 1/2 cup onions for lunch and transfer remaining onions to serving platter.

In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/2 teaspoon honey, vinegar, and olive oil; season with salt and pepper. Add spinach and tomatoes and toss to combine. Serve salad alongside sliced chicken and onions.

Dorie Greenspan's Carrot Spice Muffins


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Dorie Greenspan is a sort of rock star of the baking world, and trying her recipes will tell you why.  Her language is accessible, and her recipes almost always come out delicious.  I was super lucky one day to come across Baking: From My Home To Yours in a Ross department store for $10 a couple years ago, and I've been slowly baking my way through it since. 

I've had my eye on these muffins from the beginning, and am glad to finally give you the report.  They're so good, especially if you like carrot cake!  I've had my mom's muffins, and, sorry Dorie, I prefer my mom's, but isn't a mother's baking going to instill fierce loyalty into the hearts of her children?  Anyway, these muffins are well spiced and light in texture for a muffin.  They're sweet enough, but just sweet enough to let you know it's a breakfast treat but not a dessert.  I enjoyed them, and the recipe made maybe 17-18 muffins with me filling the tins about half to two thirds full. 

With fall just around the corner, these muffins will warm up your mornings.  Make them soon!  They also freeze well.  I should know, since I've had about half a dozen in my freezer since I've made them and have taken one out here and there.

Carrot Spice Muffins
from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2/3 cup flavorless oil, such as canola, sunflower, or corn
2 large eggs
3/4 cup whole milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1/3 cup moist, plump currants or raisins
1/3 cup pecans or walnuts, toasted, cooled and chopped

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F. Butter or spray a muffin pan with 12 regular sized molds (or use paper liners, or silicone pans). Place the muffin pan on a baking sheet.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda, and salt. Stir in the brown sugar, making sure you stir out all of the lumps. In another bowl, whisk the oil, eggs, milk, and vanilla extract, until it is well combined. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients, and gently but quickly stir to blend. Be careful not to overmix, a few lumps are fine. Stir in the carrots, currants, and nuts. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.

Bake for 20 minutes until a thin knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes, before carefully removing the muffins.