banana bread pudding

December 17, 2011

It’s that time again!!  Banana bread – wait for it – pudding!  Bread pudding made with homemade banana bread!  Because really, what else do you have to do the last weekend before Christmas?

Make Banana Bread.

Use your banana bread to make Bread Pudding.  Substitute dried cranberries and golden raisins for the sprinkled fruit and Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey in the whiskey sauce.

Ponder how bread pudding – with its bland name and less-than-photogenic presence – can be such a pleasant dish?!

beginner’s banana bread

November 17, 2011

It’s a sad day when good fruit goes bad.  Except for bananas.  When they turn all brown on the outside and smushy on the inside they transform into super bananas!  Pop a few into a freezer bag and they make the perfect basis for your next breakfast smoothie.  Or prepare this totally easy recipe for a warm treat great for any breakfast or snack time.

Banana Bread Ingredients

  • 1-3/4 cup flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup ripe bananas, smashed (2-3 medium bananas)
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350°.

Oh oh oooh, oh oh ooh, oh oh oooh, The White Stuff.  Whisk it together (sugar, baking powder baking soda, salt and 1 cup of flour) in a large bowl.

*Glorp*  Smashed frozen ripe bananas isn’t exactly the most attractive  substance on the planet, but think about what deliciousness this ooze turns intos!   Add smashed bananas, butter and milk.  Beat with a mixer on low speed until blended, then on high speed for a couple minutes longer.

Add eggs and remaining flour, beat until blended.

Get a little nuts!  Then fold them into the batter.

Whoa.  It’s getting majestic in here.  Pour batter into greased loaf pan (8x4x2).

Bake for 55-60 minutes or until a centrally stabbed toothpick removes clean.

Cool for 10 minutes.  Remove from loaf plan and cool thoroughly.  Wrap and store overnight before slicing.  Use this time to think about all the delicious ways you can eat your homemade banana bread.

With melty Nutella!

Or creamy cream cheese, sprinkled with brown sugar and cinnamon!

And if there was any left I would have attempted more options.  Like french toast.  Or – holy wow – can you imagine BANANA bread pudding!  Wowzers, time to start collecting hyper-ripe bananas for the next loaf.

lemon tea cookies

October 6, 2011

Perfect for any time of year, these lemon tea cookies are an easy-to-make cake-like treat that will rival any of those chemically softened cookies you find at the store.

recipe

Revisiting the glorious Red and White Cookbook, this recipe calls for simple ingredients that I already had on hand – no special trips for silly one-time-only ingredients taking up valuable cupboard space!

ingredients

Lemon Tea Cookie Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1-3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
oven
Preheat oven to 350°.

lemon milkIn a small bowl, stir in only 2 teaspoons (not all!) of lemon juice into the milk and let stand for 5 minutes.  It’s going to look pretty gross.

butter towerIn a larger bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed.

beat beat beat

Add about half the flour, 3/4 cup of sugar (not all of the sugar!), the egg, baking powder, baking soda, lemon peel, and lemon milk mixture.  Beat until thoroughly combined, then bet in the remaining flour.

raw dough

Drop the dough on an ungreased cookie sheet about 2 inches apart.

tick tick tick tick

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.  Cool on a wire rack.

lemon sugar

Remember that lemon juice and sugar that were left behind?  We’re going to make a wonderful glaze thing that is sweet and tart and soaks deliciously into the cakey goodness that are these cookies.

stirrrr

Stir together until the sugar is dissolved.

soak it up

Brush the glaze onto the cookies.  There is no such thing as too much, these cookies are sponges and are waiting to soak it up.  (I’m using a foam brush to avoid any stray hairs.)

tea party

Enjoy with hot or iced tea to host the smartest tea party in town, fit for a lady and a cookie monster!

pastitsio

May 28, 2011

If you grew up with boxed pasta dinners like I did, this meal is like a Hamburger Helper who cleaned up it’s act, got a haircut, put on a tuxedo, and smells gooood.  This takes Dick Whitman and turns him into Don Draper.

Pastitsio is a nutty, creamy, meaty, hearty pasta dish with Mediterranean roots consisting of tubular pasta, seasoned meat, and a béchamel sauce (a flour-based white sauce).  It’s been well over a dozen years since I last enjoyed this meal, so I was thrilled when I stumbled upon it while recently perusing the classic Red and White Cookbook.  Instead of working from the recipe as it goes in the book, my mom filled my hands with a copy of her preferred method – as well as a pound of hamburger.

(This is probably as good a place as any to come out and state for the record that I’ve had a fear of cooking meat.  It’s a little silly – I know! – but there’s something terrifyingly intimidating about those raw wads of meat, especially knowing that if you don’t cook it right the results can be gross and dangerous!!  I have made due living with this fear, because somebody else ALWAYS wants to barbecue or otherwise cook the meat for the entree at a dinner party.  But it’s time to grow up.  And my mom made me do it, by handing me a pound of hamburger and challenging me to make something of it.)

So this one is kind of complicated, but it’s totally worth it for these absurdist Chicago spring nights with sudden temperature drops to just-above freezing.

Pastitsio Ingredients

(Its a bunch, so I’ma break it down by the steps for you.  You’ll have to pay attention when shopping this one out because there is milk, cheese, eggs, and salt used in a couple places.)

Pasta

  • 1-1/2 cup tubular pasta (elbow macaroni works swell, I just wanted to say tubular because I haven’t heard the word in use since cartoon characters of the early 90s)
  • 1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese  (shredded also works just fine)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup milk

Meat

  • 3/4 pound ground beef (for a healthier alternative, use ground turkey instead! Thanks to Jess for the great suggestion!)
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 8 oz can of tomato sauce
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp ground black pepper

Béchamel Sauce

  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1-1/2 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese (again, shredded is also great)

Ready?  Cook the pasta.  Strain.  Put pasta into a medium bowl.

Stir in its buddies, namely the beaten egg, parmesan cheese, and milk.  Stir it up and set to the side.

Scary time for the meat which actually isn’t that scary at all!  Browning beef is about as complicated as scrambling eggs.  (If only someone had told me!)  Anyways, in a skillet, cook the ground beef and onion until the beef is brown and the onions are tender.  Drain excess fat.

In a medium bowl (or the skillet), combine the cooked meat and onions with the tomato sauce, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground pepper.  Stir it up.  Set to the side.

In a large saucepan, melt butter.  Blend in flour and salt. Stir in the milk, stirring until the sauce is thickened and bubbly.  Add beaten egg and parmesan and keep it moving in the pan.  You want the results to be creamy, not stucky.

Keep mixing it up (but don’t expect auto-focus to keep up with you!)

Time to start assembling!  It’s recommended that this meal be made in an 8x8x2″ dish because that will allow for nice, even, thick layers.  I had a rounded 9×12″ dish which can accommodate the volume, but isn’t ideal because the layers get spread out and aren’t as even or thick.  Anyways.  Dish out half of the macaronis into the dish.  (Here is probably 2/3 of the macaroni.)

Spoon all the tasty meat sauce on top of the macaroni layer.

Cover the meat with the second half of the macaronis.

Smooth it over with your béchamel sauce.  Top of with a sprinkle of cinnamon (nutmeg for a bolder touch).

Cook uncovered in a 350 degree oven for 45-50 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes.

Serve it up and share with five other people (or eat it by yourself for dinner six nights in a row, I won’t judge).  You can see here where it’d be better to have that narrow deep casserole dish.  A thick cream layer makes this meal hella tasty, although by no means was this spread out version anything close to terrible.

And there you have it ladies and gents, overcoming silly fears with a hearty meal!

bread pudding

March 20, 2011

I have never made bread pudding before and I can’t recall ever being served bread pudding either.  It’s not the most enticing name, bringing to mind a marriage of croutons and Snack Packs – not exactly a winning combination.  However, when I called my father to tell him I would be crashing my parents’ belated St. Patrick’s Day dinner, the sound of delight in his voice was evident as I let him know a bread pudding would be joining me.

(By the by, when did a straight-forward corned beef and cabbage dinner become so delicious?!  In my childhood, this meal was synonymous with a sour soggy plate of stewed bland colors that my younger brother and I could bear only with the help of French’s mustard racing stripes and plugging our noses to ingest the rest.  My taste buds must be maturing now as I was absolutely enchanted in this year’s meal: the salty vinegar flavours of corned beef, cabbage, carrots and potatoes contrasted wonderfully with the lightly sweet and creamy qualities of buttered soda bread and a Guinness.  I even went back for seconds!)

This recipe comes from what I’ve affectionately known my entire life as the Red and White cookbook.  The book has been a staple of my mother’s collection and I have inherited her mother’s copy of the same cookbook.  It is fabulously informative, divided by tabs into twenty separate sections, with color photos, and simple instructions with suggestions for variations on the recipes.  Best of all – it’s a binder!  A cookbook that lies flat when opened!!

This is a superbly simple recipe that I was able to bang out to completion in under one hour, including cooking time.  And if you were like me, having never enjoyed bread pudding before I’ll let you in on the secret: it’s custardy french toast for dessert!

This recipe yields 6 servings and has an accompanying Whiskey Sauce topping.

Bread Pudding Ingredients

  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 cups (about 4 slices) dry bread cubes
  • 1/3 cup raisins or other dried fruit

Dry bread.  There is a few way you can do this, either leaving the bread out overnight or toasting the slices.  I have a tiny toaster so I baked the slices for 15 minutes in a 300 degree oven.  Cut (for more fun, rip and tear) bread into cubes.  Place cubes in a baking pan.  (I have a 9″ round pan, but an 8″ round or 8×8 would also work.  Use what you have in your cupboards, most of the time it will be fine unless the dish is inappropriately large or small for the recipe.)

In a medium mixing bowl, beat together eggs, milk, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla.

Sprinkle raisins or dried fruit over bread.  The dried berry mix I had on hand has cranberries, cherries, strawberries, and blueberries in it.

Pour egg mixture over all, making sure each bread cube gets sufficiently soggy.

Bake in a 325 degree oven for 35-40 minutes or until a knife inserted into a bread cube near the center comes out clean.

Whiskey Sauce Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 beaten egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons whiskey

Melt butter in a medium saucepan.

Stir in sugar, beaten egg yolk, and water.  Over medium-low heat, stir constantly for 5-6 minutes or until sugar dissolves and mixture boils.  (Serious stress on the constant stirring.  Otherwise, you’re going to have a hard-boiled egg yolk on your hands and that would be gross.)

Remove from heat and stir in whiskey.

Spoon sauce over warm bread pudding and enjoy the messy deliciousness!

I will certainly be revisiting this recipe in the future.  It is easy to make using basic ingredients, producing an uncomplicated dessert that is welcome to adaptations.  I plan to try this out again in the summertime with dried cherries and opting for amaretto or Southern Comfort instead of whiskey in the sauce.