Thursday, February 21, 2008

Brown Sugar Banana Nut Bread

1/2 c. margarine, softened
1 c. brown sugar, firmly packed
2 eggs
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
4 overripe bananas, mashed
2 c. all-purpose flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. chopped walnuts
1/2 c. chocolate chips, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease loaf pan.

In large bowl, cream together margarine and sugar. Add eggs and mix well. Stir in vanilla and banana.

In smaller bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Add to banana mixture and stir until just combined. Fold in walnuts and chocolate chips, if desired. Pour into loaf pan.

Bake for one hour, or until bread tests for doneness.

*I like to sprinkle walnuts and/or chocolate chips on the top before baking.

*I recently tried this with chopped peanuts instead of walnuts and it gave a great flavor! I also sprinkled some Pampered Chef® Sweet Caramel Sprinkle on top, which gave it a nice crunch and sweet, flavorful crust.

Tip: When your bananas start to turn brown, peel them, wrap them in foil, and freeze them. When you get ready to make your bread, take four out of the freezer, unwrap them, and place them in a bowl to thaw. They will not look appetizing, but they're perfectly fine. You can make your bread whenever you want and not have to wait for the bananas to be just right.

Mint Chocolate Fudge Cake

5 oz. Andes Creme de Menthe baking chips (about half a bag)
1 chocolate fudge cake mix (+ ingredients needed for cake)
1 can chocolate fudge frosting

Preheat oven according to package directions. Grease and flour Bundt pan or 2 round cake pans.

Mix cake as directed on package. Fold in baking chips and pour into cake pan(s). Bake as directed on package.

Cool 15 minutes, then carefully remove from pan(s). Cool completely before frosting.

*I used a stoneware fluted pan and drizzled heated frosting over the cake instead of frosting it completely. Then I sprinkled a few mint chips on top.

mint chocolate fudge cake with mint chocolate chip ice cream

Tip: When flouring a cake pan, you can use dry cake mix instead of flour. This is especially helpful when baking chocolate cakes, as it prevents white spots on the outside of the cake.

Broccoli Cheese Soup

broccoli cheese soup paired with tomato basil bread from Panera

My sister Lindsay gave me this recipe. It's from a lady we went to church with long, long ago.

1 8-oz. block of mild Mexican Velveeta cheese, cut into small cubes
1 large bag of frozen broccoli florets, cooked according to package directions
1 large onion, chopped and sauteed
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
3 large cans evaporated milk

Combine cooked broccoli and sauteed onion in large pot; add cheese and stir until almost melted.

Stir in soup and evaporated milk; cook over medium-low heat until hot throughout, about 20 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent soup from scalding on the bottom.

Season to taste.

Stuffed Strawberries

strawberries stuffed with cheesecake-flavored filling

1 qt. large strawberries
1 pkg. cheesecake or white chocolate pudding mix
1 8 oz. container whipped topping

Rinse strawberries and pat dry. Cut stem end off flat for base; cut an X on berry end, slicing about 3/4 of the way down the berry.

Mix pudding mix and whipped topping. Spoon mixture into decorator bag and pipe into center of strawberries. Place in container with deep sides, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Tip: Don't have a decorator bag? Use a zipper-seal plastic bag instead. Fill with mixture, press out air, and seal. Cut a small hole in one corner and squeeze out gently. When you're finished, just toss the bag.

Tip #2: To fill the bag more easily, push the open bag down into a cup and fold the edges over the rim. That way you don't have to try to hold it open while you're filling it and get a big mess all over the bag opening.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Pizza! Pizza! Pizza!

We love pizza at our house! I make it at least once a month, sometimes more. We also keep a few frozen pizzas around just in case we want one for a quick lunch one day. And I take the boys out for lunch to Cici's Pizza once a month. That way they can eat some of their favorite varieties that I don't make at home. (Caleb loves Alfredo cheese pizza; Jacob loves pepperoni.)

When I make my own pizza, I make my own crust as well. My friend Amy gave me the recipe she uses, but I made a few changes.

Pizza Dough

4 c. flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning
2/3 c. olive oil
1 1/3 c. water

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

Measure oil and water into one large measuring cup; pour all at once into flour mixture. Stir to form a ball.

Divide dough in half and press or roll out each half to about 15 inches. (If dough is too sticky, add a little extra flour.) Prick crust with fork to prevent air pockets. Bake for 8 minutes.

Top pizza with desired toppings and bake additional 8-10 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

Makes 2 15-inch pizzas.

Canadian bacon, mushroom, and black olive pizza

Our typical pizza has mushrooms, black olives, and onions. If I have some Canadian bacon or ham on hand, I'll add it, too. The boys like that pizza really well, but I don't put as many onions on theirs.

Garden Veggie Pizza

One of my favorite spring and summer pizzas is a Garden Veggie Pizza.

1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 clove garlic, pressed
2 tsp. Italian seasoning

Mix well and spread over prebaked crust. Top with shredded mozzarella or Italian-blend cheese.

Next layer with your choice of garden-fresh vegetables. I use baby spinach, zucchini, mushrooms, black olives, Roma tomatoes (on my half), purple onion, and artichoke hearts. Sprinkle a little extra cheese on top, then bake until the crust is a golden brown. Grate a little Parmesan cheese on top; slice and serve.

Greek-style pizza

The most recent "different" pizza I made had a Greek flavor. I put olive oil, garlic, and basil on the crust, then topped it with crumbled feta cheese, grated Parmesan, sliced black and green olives, and diced tomatoes (on my half). It was good, but I prefer melted cheese on my pizzas. Feta just browns.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Potatoes with Feta Cheese and Olives

recipe from The Complete Book of Greek Cooking

2 lbs. potatoes
2/3 c. extra virgin olive oil (Next time I'll reduce this to 1/2 c.)
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
10 oz. feta cheese, crumbled (I think I only used 8 oz. I definitely recommend 10.)
1 c. pitted black and green olives (The picture in the cookbook showed the olives halved, but I quartered mine. I think I'd like to use a little more olives next time, maybe an extra half cup.)
1 1/4 c. hot vegetable stock (from boiling the potatoes)
salt and ground black pepper

Scrub potatoes well; cook in large pot of boiling water for 15-20 minutes. Remove and cool slightly, then peel and cut into very thin slices.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brush bottom and sides of 9x13 baking dish with oil. Layer potato slices in dish with rosemary, cheese, and olives. (I made 3 layers.)

Drizzle with remaining oil and vegetable stock; season with salt and pepper.

Cook for 35 minutes. The recipe recommends covering the potatoes with foil to prevent overbrowning, but mine did just fine uncovered.