Peanut Butter Banana Bread

Confession: I tend to buy bananas, knowing that at least few of them will get brown before we eat them, just so I have an excuse to make banana bread.

This time I used several of them to make sugar-free, dairy-free ice cream (recipe below), so I just had two left. My usual banana bread calls for 3-4 bananas and I was out of applesauce (which I sometimes use to make up for some of the bananas). Not to be deterred, I decided to substitute peanut butter for the other banana. This was the result:

Peanut Butter Banana Bread

Ingredients:
2 ripe bananas
1/2 c. peanut butter
1/3 c. melted butter
1/2 c. sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 c, flour (I used 1 c. whole wheat and 1/2 c. all purpose)

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Mash the bananas in a large mixing bowl. Add the melted butter, peanut butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla and mix well. Sprinkle the salt and baking soda on top and stir in. Finally stir in the flour. Spoon the batter into a greased bread pan and bake for 30-45 minutes or until browned.

Or, for another delicious banana/peanut butter combination, try this “ice cream” recipe that Lindsay passed on to me this spring (it’s naturally sugar-free and dairy-free):

Banana Peanut Butter Soft Serve “Ice Cream”

Ingredients:
2-3 ripe bananas, frozen (thawed slightly)
1/3 c. peanut butter
1/4 c. cocoa powder
1 tsp. vanilla

Directions:
Combine all ingredients in the food processor (to be honest, I don’t measure exactly so these are just guesses) and process on high until creamy. Eat immediately (as if you could resist this long anyway).

Another Variation on Pancakes

I am a breakfast person.

I know plenty of people who skip breakfast most days (my husband among them) and I used to count myself as one of those. I usually ate a combination of breakfast/lunch somewhere in the late morning or early afternoon. These days, though, I tend to wake up hungry, my stomach growling before I’ve finished my cup of coffee. Which usually leads to me cooking a bowl of oatmeal (substantial, nutritious, and cheap). After eating oatmeal nearly every morning this week, though, I decided it was time for something different.

I mixed up a batch of these pancakes (based on this recipe), cooking some and refrigerating the rest of the batter for another morning (how long can you refrigerate pancake batter anyhow?). They’re probably some of the fluffiest pancakes I’ve ever had:

Vegan Pancakes

Ingredients:

1 1/4 c. flour (whatever kind you want; I used whole wheat)
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (optional)
1 1/4 c. soy milk
1 tsp. vanilla (or you could just use vanilla soy milk I suppose)
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil

Directions:

Wisk all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the soy milk, vanilla, and oil and stir with a fork until smooth. Cook on a lightly oiled skillet over medium-high heat until lightly browned on both sides (they don’t get the same golden brown as regular pancakes). I found that sometimes it helps to spread the batter a bit after you pour it since it ends up fairly thick. Serve with your choice of toppings (I prefer a little bit of honey or applesauce; my husband can’t eat them without lots of syrup).

(Note: you can also use just water instead of the milk if you’d like, like the recipe suggests. I tried it with water the first time and it was alright, but I thought they tasted better with the soy milk and vanilla)

 

Simmering

This past week I’ve wrestled with a lot of discouragement (mostly from my so-far-fruitless job search and the uncertainty about the next couple months that it brings). I feel stretched with the tension of this transition until I’m brittle and snappish. I try to soak in God’s words over me and the dreams solidifying in my heart. But I still feel pretty lost in the in between.

In the meantime, though, I’ve still been doing a lot of cooking, planning menus and trying new recipes. I’ve become enamored with the cinnamon/tumeric combination that give dishes an exotic sort of taste, so I thought I’d share a couple recipes I made recently.

The kids were hanging out in the kitchen with me, munching on bites of tomato and zucchini while I made this first one. When dinner time came, Shelby gave them pizza rolls, but they cried for the vegetable stew until she finally gave them some. They ate all their vegetables – and asked for seconds – but never did finish those pizza rolls. I consider that a success :-).

Couscous with Butter Beans, Zucchini, and Tomato Stew

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 28 oz. can of tomatoes, drained
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. fresh ginger, minced
1 tsp. coriander
1/2 tsp. tumeric
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cayenne
1 can of butter beans (don’t drain)
3 medium zucchini, diced
2 c. water
1 1/3 c. dried couscous

Directions:

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium heat in a deep skillet. Sauté the onions in the oil, for five minutes, then add the tomatoes, garlic, ginger, coriander, tumeric, cinnamon, and cayenne. Saute, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes. Stir in the butter beans (including the liquid), zucchini, and 1/4 tsp. salt. Cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, bring the water to a boil, along with the remaining 1/4 tsp. salt and the remaining 2 tsp. oil. Stir in the couscous. Immediately cover the pan and remove from the heat. Let stand at least 5 minutes. Just before serving, fluff the couscous. Ladled the stew over the couscous and serve.

(This recipe was modified from a recipe in The Best 125 Meatless Mediterranean Dishes, by Susann Geiskopf-Hadler and Mindy Toomay – one of my current favorite cookbooks from the library)

 

Kashmiri Gobi

(A northern India dish)

Ingredients:

1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves
2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
3 tomatoes, chopped
6 Tbsp. oil
1 large cauliflower, separated into florets
1 tsp. ground tumeric
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cloves
3 bay leaves
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/4 c. cashews, chopped

Directions:

Puree the onion, garlic, ginger, and tomatoes together in a food processor. In a saucepan, sauté this mixture with the tumeric and cayenne for 3 minutes. Add the cinnamon, cloves, bay leaves, sugar, and salt and simmer for a 5 more minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a deep saucepan over medium heat and sauté the cauliflower until it is beginning to brown and soften. Add the prepare sauce and the cashews and stir together. Let cook for about 5 minutes more. Serve over quinoa or your choice of grains.

(This recipe was modified from one found in World Food Café; Global Vegetarian Cooking, by Chris and Carolyn Caldicott)

The Kashmiri Gobi

Garden Goodness

I’ve been missing our garden, so when I saw Maria on Sunday and she told me to come over and pick vegetables, I was delighted. I’ve been babysitting baby Lena (our  youngest housemate) and waiting for a slightly cooler day (which I finally decided just wasn’t coming since the temperature has edged over a hundred degrees most days this week), but I finally made it over to the garden this morning.

It sorely needed weeding, but it was still growing! Some of the vegetables (like the beans and cucumbers) were on their way out, wilted and molding in the dirt, but the butternut squash had exploded all over the garden, the quinoa was starting to form brightly colored orange and red buds just like the seed package had promised, several baby watermelon nestled under the leaves next to the squashes, the peppers were blushing bright red, and the zucchini was still going strong!

I spent a couple hours tugging out weeds, pulling out dead plants and vines, and avoiding spiders (the only thing I don’t like about gardening). These long, thin vines had wound themselves around a lot of the plants, so I had to carefully unwind each one so it wouldn’t damage the plants (if zucchini grow like the Kingdom of God, I’m convinced that these viney weeds grow like sin!)

And then, sweaty but satisfied, I came home, bearing two grocery bags full of homegrown veggies: butternut squash, zucchini, red peppers, hot peppers, onions, beets, baby carrots, and green tomatoes.

They became the highlight of dinner tonight:

Garlicky Baked Butternut Squash

(modified from this recipe)

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp. minced fresh carrot tops (the recipe originally called for parsley)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into small cubes
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Combine all ingredients (except for the Parmesan cheese) in a shallow 2 quart baking dish. Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for 45 minutes or until the squash is tender. During the last ten minutes or so of the baking time, stir in the parmesan cheese.

(I served this over quinoa, which was delicious. I think this has just become one of my new favorite recipes)

And of course, one of the best parts about cooking any kind of squash, is toasting the seeds:

Oven-Toasted Squash Seeds

Ingredients:

Seeds from 1 squash
Seasoned salt (or other spices) to taste

Directions:

Stir together seeds and seasoned salt on a shallow baking pan (I just use a small cookie sheet). Toast at 375 degrees until lightly browned and crispy, stirring often (watch carefully since they can go from almost done to burnt very quickly).

And for dessert (yes, I actually made dessert!) I found this interesting recipe for green tomatoes. It’s definitely not the traditional fried green tomatoes and makes me want to experiment more with tart green tomatoes:

Green Tomato Crisp

(modified from this recipe)

Ingredients:

7 firm green roma tomatoes (if you use bigger tomatoes, you could use less)
salt and pepper
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup coarse graham cracker crumbs
4 Tbsp. butter, cut into small pieces

Directions:

Thinly slice the tomatoes and layer them in an ungreased baking pan. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with the brown sugar, then with the cracker crumbs. Top with the butter and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until bubbly and slightly browned on top.

(The pepper added an interesting bite to it, but I liked it. Next time I’d probably just cut down on the sugar a bit, just to make it a little more tart)

Salsa

On Monday Kate from the Boiler Room invited me to help her can salsa with some of the tomatoes from their garden (they have some of the biggest tomatoes I’ve ever seen!). As we chopped and stirred and waited for water to boil, she shared a bit of her story and I shared a bit of mine, and we talked about gardening, preserving, cooking, sewing, and recycling, among other things. It was encouraging and refreshing.

And at the end of the afternoon, Kate sent me home with homemade salsa and an abundance of fresh vegetables from her garden (tomatoes, collards greens, kale, and basil). I felt so blessed in so many ways!

Here’s the recipe we used (from this site):

Salsa for Canning

Ingredients

8 Ripe tomatoes
1 ½ c. of chopped mild green Anaheim-type peppers
1 c. minced jalapeno pepper
2 ½ c. chopped yellow onions
6 cloves of garlic
2 ½ tsp. cumin
2 Tbsp. of black pepper
2 Tbsp. of canning salt
12 oz. of tomato paste
15 oz. tomato sauce
1/3rd c. white vinegar
Juice of 1 lime
1/4th cup fresh and chopped cilantro

Directions:

Finely grind the tomatoes, peppers, onion, and garlic in a food processor. Pour into a large pot and add the rest of the ingredients, except for the lime juice and cilantro. Mix well. Set over heat and boil for 10 minutes. Keep on stirring while it boils. After boiling, turn off the flame and remove the salsa from heat. Add the lime juice and cilantro. Pour this mixture into pint jars (one batch makes six pints, if I remember correctly). Place the canning lids and rings on the jars again and process the jars in boiling hot water for around 15 minutes (usually, a big aluminum pot is used to place these jars for the hot water bath. The boiling hot water must cover at least 1 inch from the bottom of the jars). Ensure that the leads of the jars are tightly closed. Store the salsa cans in a cool and dry place. Once you open the lid of the jar, you must refrigerate the jar. It is also advisable to use the salsa within one year. Before opening the jar, make sure the lid of the jar is not bulging. After opening, check for foam, mold or some unusual odor. Sometimes, this happens, if the salsa is not cooked properly or something goes wrong with the recipe.

Friendship and Food

Last night I went to a girls night with some of the women from our Tuesday night prayer gathering, plus a couple women I hadn’t met before. Natalie had set out games, nail polish, and supplies for facial, but we ended up just talking all evening. At one point we talked about friendship and how hard it is sometimes to establish friendships in a new place (several of us recently moved to Kansas City). And we decided that it’s good to gather with just women like that sometimes. Yes indeed.

Anyways, here’s the recipe for the bean dip I brought (really easy and really tasty — a good combination):

Spicy Bean Dip with Yogurt

Ingredients:

1 can of beans (I used black eyed peas)
5 cloves of garlic
1/4 c. plain yogurt
3 tsp. lime juice
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
1 Tbsp. cilantro (I used dried, because that’s what I had, but I’m sure fresh would be even better)
1 tsp. hot sauce

Directions:

Blend beans and garlic in the food processor until finely chopped. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth. Serve with pitas, chips, or crackers (I put it on woven wheat crackers).

Blueberry Loaf with Lemon Glaze

I wanted to make something fun with blueberries for the tea party and I found this recipe. It’s definitely not low fat or low sugar, but it was so tasty and pretty (Derek said it reminded him of the lemon loaf at Starbucks — one of his favorites)!

Blueberry Loaf with Lemon Glaze

Ingredients:

For the blueberry loaf:
1 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
1 lemon, peel grated and juice squeezed (I used 1 Tbsp. grated orange peel and 3 Tbsp. lemon juice instead)
1/2 cup milk
1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen (don’t thaw if using frozen) – I used fresh from our blueberry picking

For the lemon glaze:
1/4 cup sugar
juice from one lemon (above) – again, I just used 3 Tbsp. lemon juice

Directions:

For the blueberry loaf:

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan. In a bowl, stir together the flour, the baking powder and the salt. In a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer, beat the sugar and the butter for a few minutes until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each one. Beat in the grated lemon (or orange) peel. Add the flour mixture in two or three portions, alternately with the milk, beating just until the batter is smooth. Quickly fold in the blueberries, just until they’re evenly distributed. If you’re using frozen berries, the batter will turn blue — don’t panic, it will look fine when it’s baked. Pour batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 60 to 70 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a toothpick poked into the middle comes out clean. Leave it in the pan while you prepare the lemon syrup.

For the lemon glaze:

In a small microwave-safe bowl or measuring cup, combine the 1/4 cup of granulated sugar with the lemon juice. Microwave on high power for 30 to 45 seconds — just until the mixture boils. Remove from microwave and give it a stir. With a toothpick, poke holes all over the top of the Blueberry Loaf. Using a wide pastry brush, brush the top of the hot loaf with the hot syrup (I just poured it over, to be honest, and it worked great). Let cool for at least 30 minutes in the pan, then remove to a rack and cool completely.

Cooking Redemption

The zucchini and cucumbers just keep coming. This was all from one day! I’m bringing a load of them to the Boiler Room tomorrow night to give to people. And I think I’m going to try to make pickles this week….

But in the meantime, we’re still eating zucchini almost daily (we went a day without it, but only because Derek suggested we go out to eat…ha!). Tonight I brought the polenta and zucchinis out again and tried another combination. I think it turned out well this time (much better than the vomit-looking version) and Derek liked it too.  So, here’s a zucchini and polenta dish, take 2:

Polenta with Garden Vegetables

Ingredients:

For the polenta:
6 c. water
1 1/2 c. cornmeal
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. thyme
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. olive oil

For the sauce:
1 pint tomato sauce (I used a jar I canned with Stacey last summer!)
1 c. zucchini, diced
1 tsp. sugar
Italian seasoning, to taste
Salt, to taste

Directions:

For the polenta:
Bring the water and salt to a boil. Very gradually, whisk in the cornmeal (if you don’t do it gradually, you get lumps…trust me, I’ve done it…). Reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring often, until thick. Stir in the thyme, Parmesan cheese, and oil. Spread in an oiled loaf pan and refigerate overnight.

Slice the polenta into 1/4 in. slices. Saute in a frying pan with a little bit of oil (I used about a tablespoon) until brown on both sides. Set aside.

For the sauce:
While the polenta is cooking, simmer together all the sauce ingredients. Serve over the polenta slices. If desired, top with Parmesan cheese.

What do you think? Does this make up for the zucchini and polenta cooking catastrophe the other night?

(p.s. I also cooked green beans from our garden! Yes!)

Weekend Breakfast on a Thursday

Derek has today and tomorrow off of work, so this is sort of our “weekend”. We slept in, drank our coffee together, and then I made a puff pancake for breakfast (I’d never made one — or even seen one — so it was kind of fun; they weren’t kidding when they say the edges will puff up!). It took a little while to cook, but was really easy. If I made it again, though, I’d probably add a bit of sugar to the batter (the recipe doesn’t include any sugar, other than in the topping), but it was still tasty. Here’s the recipe I used (modified a bit from this recipe):

Puff Pancake with Strawberries

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp. butter
4 large eggs
1 C. milk
1 C. flour
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
2 C. strawberries, sliced
2 Tbsp. sugar
honey (optional)
powdered sugar (optional)

Directions:

Melt butter in 9″ pie plate in 450 degree oven for about 5 minutes. In a medium bowl combine eggs, milk, flour, vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg; mix well until batter is smooth and creamy. Pour batter into pie plate; bake, uncovered, 30 minutes or until golden and center is dry (pancake will form a well in the center and edges will puff up). Meanwhile, mix together strawberries with sugar and slightly crush with a fork. Serve slices of the puff pancake topped with strawberries. Optionally, you can drizzle with honey or sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Ginger Turnips with Swiss Chard

(These aren’t from our garden — we didn’t grow turnips or swiss chard — but this was made with local, seasonal produce so I thought it was worth posting. I bought these from the Bad Seed Market, probably the hippiest farmers market I’ve ever been to, but they had wonderful, organic produce)

Ginger Turnips with Swiss Chard

Ingredients:

2-3 Tbsp. butter (I’m sure olive oil would work, too, but butter makes everything SO tasty!)
5-6 medium turnips, sliced, including the greens, sliced into strips
5-6 stalks of chard, sliced, + 2 of the leaves, sliced into strips (I saved the rest of the leaves for a stir fry)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
Ginger, to taste (I like ginger a lot, so I put probably about 2 tsp. though honestly, I didn’t measure so I can’t say for sure)
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Heat butter in a somewhat large skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced turnips and chard stems and cover.  Cook until tender and slightly browned (about 7-8 minutes?), stirring occasionally. Add the greens, garlic, ginger, salt, and pepper, and continue to cook over medium heat until the greens are wilted and bright green (usually only a couple minutes, though for the chard it was slightly longer). Serve immediately over couscous (at least that’s what I did :-))