Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Dermabond and Banana Bread

We could have stuck with Plan A and come home from a long weekend in Asheville by way of my parents' house in north Georgia. But, it was raining, and we came all the way home. Just in time for the boys to get into a tug-of-war with a piece of long foam in the dining room. Just in time for me to be on the phone asking if a friend's son could come over in the morning for a playdate. Just in time for Boy #1 to come in and say, "hey Mom, brother's head is bleeding." Score. So, I'm thankful for the after hours pediatric group near our house, and thankful for the Dermabond they applied to the gash in Boy #2's scalp in an appointment that lasted all of ten minutes. Good thing, because it was raining so hard the road appeared to move on the way home.

Which leads to banana bread. We came home with most of the bananas we left town with. They just weren't pretty, which makes them a hard sell in a hotel room, where I couldn't really gussy them up.

I have great difficulty finding pretty bananas. I was told years ago by the produce manager of my grocery that the bananas come in on refrigerated trucks. Guess what turns bananas that unappealing gray shade? Yup, cold temperatures. So, for years now, banana bread's been the savior of all those unappealing bananas. I could get into Banana's Foster here and there, but that's a whole other thing.

This is a great recipe for a simple banana bread.

Sour Cream Banana Bread
Adapted from Old Farmer's Almanac Everyday Cookbook

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup sour cream
2-3 ripe bananas, mashed (if they're huge bananas, use two)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, sour cream, mashed bananas, and vanilla, and mix well. In a separate small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix well. Stir in nuts. Pour the batter into the loaf pan. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, (turning the loaf 180 degrees about halfway through) or until a toothpick comes out clean. Makes 1 loaf.

Really good banana bread from not so pretty bananas.

Where have all the good bananas gone? 

Raw sugar doesn't lend itself to "light and fluffy," but it's a start.

Use the lip on the baking powder container to level off your teaspoon.  It's your friend. 

My "Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head" music box is in the kitchen. I don't know why. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Ann's Cranberry Bread

I would imagine that most people with young children get asked to do things at the last minute, things like a spur-of-the-moment bake sale. Well, our Cub Scout Pack threw just that at us earlier this week. I think I'd be more enthusiastic if it weren't for the fact that I have a suitcase packed, ready to go, and this would have been the last thing I'd have thought I needed to do. But, I did it anyway, and I did, mainly because this recipe for Cranberry Bread is perfect for Thanksgiving. It's almost as easy to make as a mix, and tastes SO much better!

My late Aunt Ann was a feisty woman: Irish, golfer, mother to four of my wonderful cousins. We were sad to see her leave this earth too early. She left behind a legacy that includes this great recipe.

Ann's Cranberry Bread
Makes one loaf

1 cup white, all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup boiling water
2 Tbsp. melted shortening (see note below)
1 egg

1 tsp. grated orange peel (available in the spice department)
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)
1 cup halved fresh cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift together flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a large bowl. Add sugar and stir. Stir in orange juice, melted shortening, water and egg. (To melt the shortening, I microwave 1/2 cup of water in a 1 cup liquid measuring cup to a rolling boil, and pour it out to 1/4 cup. I scoop out the shortening into the boiling water and stir to dissolve.)

Once you've got your batter done, add the orange peel, cranberries, and if you like, pecan pieces.

Pour batter into a greased bread loaf and bake at 350 degrees for 60-70 minutes (check it at 60). I turn my breads in the oven at the half-way point, to make sure that they brown evenly. Turn out onto a cooling rack. Freezes well.

Fresh cranberries: I buy them and freeze them to have on hand.

What it took to get the recipe done with four boys running around the house like banshees.

Unto each recipe some flour must fall. 

I chose to juice the oranges myself so we'd have orange slices for our car ride this week.

Melting shortening in boiling water

I'd love to show you the loaf cut open, but these are heading to a bake sale.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Getting Kids Into the Kitchen

Making Corn Muffins for next week's Pack Meeting/Hobo Dinner

Making icing for the cookies

Icing the oatmeal cookies

Pigs in Blankets, Crudite with White Bean Hummus and Oatmeal Cookies

Dinner's Ready!

Den 1 recently met to earn an achievement on cooking. We turned four separate activities into one fun meeting where we knocked out four goals, in just under an hour, and ate dinner together. It was great fun, no one chopped off their fingers, and we figured out that a pig in a blanket made with a cheese stick works great for our vegetarian den member.

No recipe here, but an invitation for you to pick a recipe, set up a few ingredients, and invite the kids to join you in prepping the meal. It may take a little while longer than if it were you alone, but it's worth it. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Pumpkin Buttermilk Ice Cream

We make a lot of the ice cream we eat. There are some kinds we really like that we seek out at the store, but I've generally come to the conclusion that I like to know what's in the ice cream. Several years ago, I asked Secret Santa for the ice cream maker attachment for my Kitchen Aid stand mixer. It freezes for 24 hours, and then you put in the dasher, a converter, and go. It could not be easier to use. We do have a very old electric ice cream maker from my late father in law, but what it makes is dependent on how chopped up the ice is (and whether or not you realize that the salty ice water you pour out is going to kill your father's vinca plants on the side of the porch---oops.) 

Aiding and abetting my ice cream making habit is the availability of really neat, inexpensive cardboard ice cream quart containers. This company, Sweet Bliss Containers, sells online and is based in a nearby suburb.  They too received an ice cream maker and wanted containers for the freezer. Trust me, I've stabbed so many of the plastic containers trying to get the ice cream out. It won't budge. These work best. 

The ice cream Bible, as far as I'm concerned, is Ben and Jerry's "Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book," published in 1987. I got my copy, in fact, in 1987, as a non-ice-cream-maker-owning college student. My friend Suzanne and I drove 50 miles one day to go to the only store in Metro Atlanta that, at the time, sold the first Ben & Jerry's ice cream and buy pints of Heath Bar Crunch. My friend Karen is a Ben & Jerry's shareholder, just so that she gets invited to the annual shareholder's meeting in Vermont, which, at that time before its corporate takeover, involved all the ice cream you could consume. 

This recipe is a play on the pumpkin ice cream recipe found in the book. Ben and Jerry break ice cream making into two steps. Use the cream base of your choice as the stepping stone for the recipe. 

The only thing I have to add (beside the fact that making your own ice cream is insanely easy to do) is that you absolutely, positively want to chill your "batter" before you freeze it. Some recipes will say it; others assume you know that. Especially with the freezer style maker, if the batter's not cold, it will take the charge out of the coolant, making it a challenge to freeze. I've done it. Don't follow my lead on that one. 

Pumpkin Buttermilk Ice Cream

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Chilling Time: Two or more hours
Freezing Time: 20 minutes, but varies by freezer type
Curing Time in Freezer: 2-12 hours
Yield: Almost two quarts

Ice cream base: 

2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy or whipping cream
1 cup buttermilk

Whisk eggs in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy (1-2 minutes). Whisk in the sugar, a little bit at a time, and continue whisking. You do this to suspend the sugar crystals in the eggs. It's what gives the ice cream a light texture. When it's completely blended, pour in the cream and buttermilk, and whisk to blend. 

Pumpkin Batter:

1 cup canned pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
1 tsp. ground nutmeg (if you want to grate your own fresh, knock yourself out and watch your knuckles)
1 tsp. ground cinnamon

Put your pumpkin filling in a smaller bowl and mix. Add to it, one cup of your cream base, and stir until blended. Return the pumpkin filling to the remaining cream base and stir. Chill the batter, covered, in the fridge, for two hours or until you're ready to freeze it. 

Freeze according to the directions on your ice cream maker. 

This is where you mix a cup of the cream mix into the pumpkin mix. 

This is the coolest attachment I have for my stand mixer. I have yet to use the grain mill. 

Ice cream is one of the things that the boys will help make. 

A little reward for the work. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Double Ginger Cookies

I recently entered and won a holiday cookie contest held by the Sandy Springs (GA) Hospitality and Tourism group (the video is also posted here). We entered cookie recipes in September, and recently shot a video at the Young Chef's Academy showing how we make our winning cookies. The other winner, Bernie's cookies are a New Orleans favorite: Lace Cookies.

Mine, well, they're Double Ginger Cookies and they're delicious too. I got this recipe from someone at church. I went to the funeral of a friend's father and had a cookie at the reception. I went into the kitchen and asked the first person I saw, Elizabeth Robertson, who had made those particular cookies. She did. And she was willing to share. We've been making these every year since. They are pretty and they freeze with ease.

Double Ginger Cookies

Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Baking Time: 15-18 minutes

Makes about Four Dozen Cookies

2 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons ground ginger
1 tsp. baking soda
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon salt
2/3 cup canola oil
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup dark molasses
1 large egg, lightly beaten, plus 1 large egg white (for wash)
¾ cup chopped crystallized ginger (Trader Joe's carries it, as does Whole Foods)
½ cup coarse sugar crystals

Preheat the oven to 325°. Lightly grease two baking sheets or line them with parchment

Sift the flour, ground ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt together onto a sheet
of waxed paper.

In a large bowl, stir the oil, brown sugar, and molasses together with a wooden spoon
until well blended. Add the whole egg and beat until blended. Stir in the flour mixture
and finely chopped crystallized ginger.

Lightly beat the egg white in a small bowl. Spread the sugar crystals in a shallow bowl.

With dampened hands, shape the dough into one inch balls. If the batter is too loose, add a little more flour. It should be easy to roll in between the palms of your hands. Brush each ball lightly with
egg white and roll in the sugar to coat lightly. Place the cookies about one inch apart on
the pans.

Bake the cookies until the tops are set and crackled, 15-18 minutes. Let the cookies cool
in the pans on wire racks for five minutes before transferring them to the racks to cool
completely. The cookies will firm as they cool.

This recipe makes about four dozen cookies. It is easily doubled. The cookies store well
if kept between layers of waxed paper in an airtight container. They also freeze well.

Sandy Springs Cookie Bake-Off