Monday, July 19, 2010

Mom's Banana Bread

This recipe is very dear to my heart because it evokes the memory of my mom pulling a fresh baked loaf of banana bread from the oven on Saturday mornings.  Hmmmmmmm... I can just smell it now -  fresh, warm, banana, filling up the whole house with it's sweet aroma.  I remember cutting out a piece while it was still hot and savoring the flavors of the speckled little bread.  SO GOOD!

So, you can see why I had to come up with a way that I could still enjoy this treat but tweak it to fit the whole foods, plant-based lifestyle.

The challenges:  what to do about the eggs and buttermilk called for in the original recipe.  Everything else could have been left exactly the same but, I chose to substitute out some of the sugar the original recipe calls for with honey and applesauce which, did double duty as an egg substitute and as a alternative sweetener.

Shopping List:
2 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. vegetable shortening
1/2 c. clover honey
1/2 c. unsweetened applesauce
3 well ripened bananas
4 Tbl. milk alternative (use to make buttermilk)

From the Pantry:
4 tsps. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. white distilled vinegar (use to make buttermilk)
1 Tbl. pumpkin pie spice
pinch of salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract

3 mixing bowls
large spoon

Preparation:  You'll need to make 4 Tbls. buttermilk for this recipe.  To do that, combine milk and vinegar and let stand while you prep all other ingredients*.  Combine sugar, vegetable shortening, applesauce, and honey in one bowl and whisk together until ingredients are well blended.  In a separate bowl, combine flour, pumpkin spice, baking powder and salt.  Peel and mash three bananas and set aside in another bowl.  Add baking soda to buttermilk.  Add alternately with flour mixture to sugar mixture.  Add vanilla and mashed bananas.  Using a large spoon, portion out mixture into muffin tins and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Makes about 24 muffins.

This recipe is simply divine.  I've served them warm, just out of the oven, with a dollop of coconut milk, vanilla ice cream and the experience is take-a-moment, eyes-closed good.  My husband also enjoys having a few for breakfast with his morning coffee.

The addition of the honey and applesauce makes these muffins super moist and they retain that consistency well after they've fully cooled.  I've so enjoyed sharing this recipe and I truly hope you'll try this one out for yourself.  They're seriously SO GOOD!

*Be forewarned, when you make this buttermilk, it make look like the components of your milk alternative have separated.  In other words, it's not going to look right after you let it stand for a little while.  But don't worry.  It will mix together and bake up just fine.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Just Squash It

I don't know about you but, I love summer squash.  The name alone evokes thoughts of my favorite time of year.  It's vibrant yellow color… how versatile it is… it's just good stuff.  So, I'm going to share a dish with you that's all about celebrating this sunny beauty.

Shopping List:
1 lg. summer squash
4 md. white mushrooms
3-4 cloves garlic

From the Pantry:
1 Tbl. olive oil
olive oil cooking spray

frying pan
cutting board

Preparation:  Dice garlic cloves.  Move garlic to frying pan on medium heat and brown it while you slice up the squash and mushrooms.  Once garlic has browned (about 5 minutes) pour olive oil into frying pan and add squash.  Spray top of squash with olive oil spray and sprinkle with S & P and paprika.  Stir, and continue to cook on medium heat for about 5-7 minutes or until squash starts to become tender.  Then add mushrooms and repeat with another round of olive oil spray and seasonings.  Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, then remove from heat and you're done!  So simple right?!

My man gobbled this right up so, it's hungry man approved.

This is a very basic recipe which I'm sure could be enhanced in many ways.  Let me know what you think and the creative ways you improve on this dish.

Makes about 4 servings at about 60 calories each… yeah, I know… bonkers!  That's what's so great about veggies.  You could eat this entire thing for a meal and it would only be about 240 calories with 120 of those calories coming from the tablespoon of olive oil alone.  Forego the oil and you've got yourself an extremely light dish.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Oven Roasted Vegetable Bonanza

One evening, I was just really hankering for some vegetables; like, I just wanted to sink my teeth into a big bite of veggies.  I knew I had a variety of veggies chillin' in the fridge and I decided that I would roast them up in the oven because I knew that would be relatively quick and easy.  One of the great things about fresh vegetables is, when you throw them all together, the final result always seems to come out delicious.

Shopping List:
1 lg. red onion
1 lg. white onion
1 md. tomatoes
1 lg. squash
1 lg. zucchini
1 md. red, orange, and yellow pepper
6 lg. cloves garlic

From the Pantry:
white balsamic vinegar
olive oil cooking spray

large cookie sheet with rim
cutting board

Preparation:  I rinsed all my vegetables and then proceeded to slice, chop, and dice each one.  I wanted everything to be kind of chunky so, the only thing I chopped into small pieces was the garlic.  I lined my cookie sheet with foil for easy clean up, laid out all the vegetables, spritz the top with olive oil, and gave the entire thing a liberal sprinkling of salt and pepper.  Finally, I drizzled white balsamic vinegar over the top of the dish.  I probably used a total of about 1/2 c. balsamic vinegar… maybe even a little more.  The vinegar really brought out the sweetness in the vegetables, which, the roasting process is also going to naturally do so, if you prefer more savory than sweet, you may want to forgo the vinegar.  I placed the pan in an oven preheated to 450 degrees and baked it for 30 minutes stopping to check and stir the vegetables at the 15 minute mark.

The result was exactly what I'd hoped for.  I got a bowl full of straight-up veggies.

Now, I know that's not everyones cup of tea but, this dish would also make an excellent base for a hardy vegetable soup.  Add some carrots, celery, and corn, roast everything up, boil some red potatoes (high in antioxidants), warm a pot of vegetable stock and then combine everything to create a veritable cornucopia of chunky vegetable bliss.  This will probably sound better in the cooler months…

Another great idea, especially since we're in the heart of grilling season, would be to make vegetable kabobs.

All in all, this dish was incredibly simple, fast, and satisfying and absolutely chock full of amazing nutrients from all the beautifully colored vegetables.  It was enjoyable as a main dish but would also make a stunning side.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Essential Ingredient used by all Great Chefs

Tarragon, Cinnamon, Cardamom, Thyme.
Vanilla Bean, Star of Anise, Basil, Cloves.

There are SO many wonderful spices that can be used to enliven a dish - bringing out the subtleties of different elements or adding color and aroma to the final presentation.

The possibilities really are endless when you know how to employ the contents of your spice rack but, there is one essential ingredient that every Top Chef and every beginner needs in order to make a great tasting dish.

That Ingredient?  A dash of Daring.

I know... I know... this sounds super corny but, it really is true!

How do I know this?  Personal Experience of course.  Honestly, I never used to cook.  I did not grow up in a home where cooking or gathering for family meals was a part of our daily or weekly routine.  Cooking was just not something I did or thought about... aside from the occasional toasted breakfast bagel.  The truth of the matter is, for the majority of my life, just the idea of cooking was intimidating to me, let alone actually carrying out the act.  Put me in a room with pots and pans, spices, and tools to slice and dice and I would feel just about as comfortable as if I were asked to floss the teeth of a hungry hippo.  Really.  I was not comfortable with the whole cooking thing.  Even grocery shopping made me  anxious.  There were just so many isles with so many products, with so many ingredients...

All this is just to say that, I understand that cooking can be intimidating.  My encouragement is simple though, and the principle can be applied in many areas of your life with equally delicious results - don't be afraid to fail.  You have to be willing to try new things, experiment with flavors, quantities, temperatures, and textures.  Figure out a way to enjoy the process.  Maybe you have your favorite show playing in the background.  Maybe you play your favorite music while you mix up a little somin' somin'.  Maybe you pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy the complexities of the variance in flavors as you sip your glass while testing your dish as you cook.  Adding a dash of daring may be in the form of spices you use.  It may be in the way you prep your meal or it may be in the way you present your final dish to an awe struck crowd of friends and family.  Whatever mode you choose to employ, I gaurantee you that adding a dash of daring and a pinch of fearless will go a long way towards you becoming a confident chef whose meals are beloved by all who dare to indulge.