Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Confession

I am a little embarrassed to admit this but...

I have been going wheat free for the past week.

That was a little anti-climactic, right? But I feel a little silly following what has become a trendy diet, especially since one of my best friends and my niece have celiac disease and therefore go gluten-free without the luxury of going back on the wheat when the experiment is over.

Despite my aversion to any diet that requires eliminating a food group, I decided to give this a shot - not for my waistline, for my knees. A friend in my book group eliminated wheat and sugar as part of a "cleanse" as she called it. She found that she felt so much better generally. Specifically, she found that her tennis elbow was greatly improved. It turns out that some people are particularly sensitive to the inflammatory effects of eating wheat products which can exacerbate joint pain. (No, there is no hard research on this, just lots of anecdotal evidence proliferating the webosphere.) Obviously, my friend's relief of her elbow pain could also be correlated to the more traditional treatments she had been using, but the post-gluten improvement was significant nonetheless.

Having suffered from knee pain with no obvious structural cause and no significant improvement after lots of physical therapy and cortisone injections, I decided to give it a try. I am so desperate that giving up wheat seems like a small trade off when I consider the possibility that I could both go for a run and walk down the stairs the next day.

 I actually find that I don't miss wheat all that much yet. The biggest difference is that eliminating wheat also eliminates a ton of the snack foods my kids regularly eat. No more nibbles on animal crackers, teddy grahams, Cherrios which is all to the good. Since the vast majority of processed food products contain wheat, a gluten free diet tends to lead you back to more wholesome foods.

Last night I cooked Trader Joe's brown rice fusilli pasta and mixed it with sauteed onion, red pepper, asparagus, baby spinach, chunks of fresh mozzarella and lots of olive oil. Did the noodles taste like "normal" pasta? No. But they were pretty much indistinguishable from wheat noodles. It was a delicious dinner that didn't leave me feeling deprived at all.

(Dave is along for the ride, though he has a pretty big loophole in the name of beer consumption.)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Who are these children?

For the first time in several weeks, our weekend wasn't completely crammed with activity. In celebration, I cooked a steak dinner. Now, I have a theory that there is an inverse relationship between how much energy/enjoyment I put into a meal and how much my kids will eat of it. Despite this firmly held and well tested theory, I forged ahead and steamed some asparagus and topped it with lemon butter, mixed sauteed mushrooms, onions and currants into the quinoa and grilled up three of the Delmonico steaks from our winter meat order. It all looked and smelled delicious. I sat down at the table with a lovely looking plate and nice glass of wine completely convinced that my kids would spend their 15 minutes at the table whining and complaining.

Amazingly my children had been replaced by two cute little aliens who thoroughly enjoyed the repast I had thoroughly enjoyed preparing. The little girl martian ate three helpings of steak, and the toddler spaceboy couldn't shovel in the quinoa fast enough.

Dave and I, clearly the only Earthlings at the table, spent the whole meal in a state of slack-jawed shock at this bizarre outcome. After "Kara" asked for her second helping of steak, I turned to Dave and asked, "What the hell is going on here?"

I have  no idea how to account for this strange turn of events, but it will go down as one of the best dinners ever. Best ever!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Nutella Snack Attack

I discovered Nutella on my sophomore summer European odyssey back in 1992. At that time it wasn't sold in average American grocery stores, or at least not at grocery stores I shopped at in my 20s. Now Nutella is a ubiquitous presence in pretty much any store you can find. It appears on restaurant menus and in ads in magazines. If you Google "Nutella recipes"  you get over 10 million results. No exaggeration.

If for some reason you don't have a jar of Nutella in your cabinet, I ask you, "What the hell is wrong with you?" Thanks god for Nutella! Nutella is fracking awesome! I buy it at Costco in a two pack of 16 ounce jars. And we go through them. On waffles, toast, graham crackers, a spoon. I have yet to find an application of Nutella that I dislike.

Now our kids have come into the Nutella fold. If Jamie sees the Nutella jar on the counter, he will run around the kitchen yelling, "More 'tella! More 'tella!" Their new favorite snack: Banana with Nutella.

Kara: "Nutella is the best snack ever!"

Jamie: "Must get all Nutella...Must get all Nutella..."

Here are some Nutella blog posts worth checking out.

Nutella Chip Cookies
Smitten Kitchen's Peanutella
Peanut Butter Nutella Brownies

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Risotto - Easy Peasy

A few months ago, I read a post on Dinner a Love Story about using leftover risotto to make cheesy rice patties. Luckily, Jenny included her go-to recipe for risotto. As I read it I thought, "I should make risotto." I even went so far as to buy Arborio rice (bulk at Whole Foods). No sooner had I put the rice away in my pantry than I forgot all about risotto.

Maybe because it was cold and damp yesterday...

Maybe because I felt like making something nice for Dave after he had a crappy day...

Maybe because I was entertaining fantasies of my children eating rice..
(What kind of person rejects rice for gods sake?)

...Last night I made risotto. It was amazing. So good that I wondered out loud, "Why don't I make risotto every night?" To which Dave replied, "I have no idea!"

I followed Jenny's recipe from DALS. But now that I have made it, I don't think I would consult a recipe again. It's that easy. And to dispel a risotto myth, you don't have to stir constantly. I managed to wash a few dishes and get the frozen green beans out etc. Although if you have a older kid around, you can put him/her in charge of stirring. Just think of what you could accomplish?

In case you are intimidated by risotto, let me break it down for you:

-Get out your 4 cup Pyrex pitcher. Add 3 cups stock and 1 cup milk. Or just use stock. Warm it up in the microwave for a few minutes. It should be hot but not boiling hot.
-Melt a pat of butter and some olive oil in a heavy sauce pan.
-Add finely chopped onion, garlic and/or shallots to season the fat in the pan. (I added some chopped mushrooms too.
-Add 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice and stir until the kernels glisten.
-Add a glug or two of white wine if you have it. Stir for a minute.
-Start adding stock/milk about 1/2 cup at a time. Stir until the liquid is absorbed. Repeat. You may need to add more than 4 cups of liquid. If so, you can put in some water or more stock.
-Once your rice starts to look creamy start tasting until it is as soft as you want it.
-Add salt, pepper and a lot of Parmesan cheese.

Unless you are like my wacko kids, you will love this. One of the best things I have cooked in a long time. I can't wait to try the day two risotto cakes. Yum.

Two more takes on risotto:
Mark Bittman's Laid Back Risotto
Three Many Cooks Spring Risotto

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Handy Husband

A couple of weeks ago, I was at a brunch and found myself describing Dave's latest home improvement project - adding insulation to our basement and garage. My girlfriends politely listened to me regale them with the details of this crazy undertaking. And with her husband Jason standing not two feet away, Becky said, "It must be so great to have a handy husband." My response, of course, was a resounding, "Yes! Handy husbands rock!"

No offense to non-handy guys out there, but having a handy hubby is the best. In fact, I completely take for granted that Dave is able to fix all manner of household problems. Install a ceiling fan, check. Weather seal a door, check check. Build a compost bin, no problem. Design and install a new closet shelving system for his adoring wife, easy as pie. Insulate the basement, you betcha.

Josh came over to help out and commented that this latest project was "seriously advanced DIY." That is seriously high praise from Josh who has remodeled entire rooms in his house.

So in case I don't say it enough, thank you Dave for being the handyman of my dreams. You are the best.

Dave with 2 tanks of chemicals that combine to make foam insulation.

Insulating is synonymous with cramming yourself into small spaces.
A view of the foamed up band joist.

The insulation monster chasing Kara. Who says insulating can't be fun too?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Comfort Dinner

One of the first things I ever made from the Pioneer Woman cookbook was her "Comfort Meatballs." On her site they are called BBQ Meatballs which is an equally apt name. The story goes that a friend of the family brought Ree these delicious meatballs after she had just come home with one of her babies. This story inspired me to make this dish for several of my friends to nourish their postpartum cravings. Our friends Filip and Juliane welcomed their third child this month, and in his honor I whipped up this recipe again. And if you are going to make one batch of balls, you might as well double the recipe. (Insert ball joke of your choice here.)

Pioneer Woman's recipe can be found here. One of the great things about this recipe is that it can easily be gluten free because she uses oats instead of breadcrumbs. If you are cooking for a GF family, just omit the step of dredging the meatballs in flour before frying them. You can skip it even if you aren't eating GF, they come out just fine. Also, these meatballs freeze really well. If I am giving a batch away, I just brown the meatballs, place in a tin foil tray and cover with sauce - no need to bake. Just tell the lucky recipient to thaw and bake at 350 for about 30 minutes. Finally, these meatballs are perfect with mashed potatoes. I have also had them over rice, quinoa and with cheese in a panini.

Friday, March 18, 2011

More Oatmeal Ideas

In a serious bout of procrastination, I was perusing Mark Bittman's site and saw that he was recently on the Today Show demonstrating some new ways to "jazz up" oatmeal.

Aside from the entertainment value in watching Lauer pretend that he doesn't hate oatmeal and Bittman pretend he doesn't hate Lauer, there are some cool cooking ideas here. Steel cut oats in coconut milk? Oatmeal patties in soy sauce? Sounds promising.

Check out the video.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks -- Book Group Winner

When I moved back to the Philadelphia area, I was lucky enough to be invited to join a book group. In a freaky coincidence two of the members of the group were friends of mine from completely different parts of my life, but they were both willing to vouch for me. (Pam, I have known since I was 12. Alice and I worked together at a school in Maryland.) I don't mean to make our group sound like some stuck up sorority, but it there are a few qualifications - you need to be smart, willing to read and discuss the books, and able to not take yourself or the idea of a book group too seriously. I am sort of kidding about "qualifications" but I do feel lucky to be part of such a great group of women.

My favorite thing about our group is that in addition to great conversations about marriage, motherhood, movies, music, politics, we actually talk about the books. A lot. I love to read, but I don't often have the chance to really discuss and analyze the books that I spend so much time with. Over the years we have read some amazing books (Atonement, Zeitoun and The Known World stand out in my memory.) We have also read some stinkers. (Why is Sarah's Key a best seller?) On average, our choices tend to be pretty good.

This month we read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.  Skloot spent well over a decade researching the origin of HeLa cells - cancer cells that were gathered from Henrietta Lacks at Johns Hopkins in 1951 and have been cultured, shared and researched ever since. It is an exploration not only of the history of cell research, but of Mrs. Lacks' life and the aftermath of her death. Skloot befriends the daughter of Mrs. Lacks and is given access to the family that no other journalist has had. With an amazing level of objectivity, Skloot describes the many ways medical research intersects with race and class. In addition, she addresses the ethical and moral questions in a manner that is personal without being preachy. There are aspects of the story that are simply horrifying, but in the end I was touched by the resilience of Mrs. Lacks' family in the face of a life-altering circumstances.

This is a great choice for a book group. It is a skillfully composed narrative of a truly compelling story. There is much to discuss -- from the family struggles to the moral implications of medical research. It is out in paperback this month, too. Give it a look.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Vacuum Cleaner Battle

When we moved in to our house 2 years ago, I didn't splurge on new towels, a lovely new couch, 600 thread count sheets. No, I spent our hard-earned cash on...a vacuum cleaner. A top of the line Kenmore. A vacuum that seemed to hold the promise of a house with less pet hair and Goldfish crumbs. Up until about 3 weeks ago, my Holy Grail of a vacuum worked great and seemed to justify the absurd amount of money I spent. Then one day it completely stopped working. No suction at all.

Expecting it to need some minor repair, I carted it back to Sears to be sent to the repair center. (I imagined a serious Lego induced clog in the hose.) When I got a call from the repair "consultant" asking me to approve $175 to fix the motor, it is fair to say that I lost the edge. Trying my best not to yell at the man tasked with delivering this bad news, I asked if it was typical for a vacuum that was only two years old to break. Of course, he couldn't say. He just makes phone calls. "So do you want to fix it?" he asked, clearly eager to get off the phone. "I guess," I replied full of venom.

Since the baby was napping, and I was still in the trance of my white hot rage,  I began a customer service odyssey that took about 40 minutes and, you'll be shocked to hear, did not result in a full refund. I will spare the details, but after speaking sternly to no less than three customer service reps, I got one to agree to refund the price of the new motor which took $65 off the final bill. While it was nice to have a slightly smaller total to pay out, I remained enraged.

Soon, though, my rage was replaced by existential angst. What does it say about my life that I have 40 minutes to devote to haranguing customer service reps? The whole time I was on the phone,  I was feeling sort of superior. These people have messed with the wrong customer - I am a stay at home mom with a baby who naps and a lot of education. I will get my money back! But when all was said and done, I was left with a $65 credit and the sneaking suspicion that I have too much time on my hands. Am I really becoming one of those women who are so starved of intellectual stimulation and adult contact, that they will take any outlet for their pent up energy, or in this case ire?

There is no doubt that I often feel that I am not fully utilizing my academic, professional or social skills during  this current chapter of my life. Of course, I know that the job I currently hold, taking care of two kids and the household while also working on professional projects part-time, is in many ways more challenging than being a full time teacher. And it is certainly more valuable to my family, if not to my self esteem. Perhaps the key to happiness for me, in lieu of full time employment, is a steady diet of incompetent customer service reps on whom I can vent.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Cheesecake Brownies

As part of my "impress Josh's girlfriend" dinner last weekend, I made cheesecake brownies. Not only was I craving something rich, gooey and chocolaty, but I had never made this version of the brownie before. I think I spent longer searching for a recipe on the internet than I actually did cooking. After viewing a ton of recipes, most of which were discounted for including a chocolate ingredient that I didn't have in my cabinet, I settled on this version by David Lebovitz. If you haven't checked out his blog, it is absolutely worth a look.

Even though they didn't come out as pretty as the ones in Lebovitz's picture, they tasted delicious and were easy to make.

After all of this searching and baking, I had an email exchange with Mrs. D, Josh's mom, who makes the best cheesecake brownies I have ever had.

Mrs D:  I haven't made them in a long time and they're from the side panel of a Betty Crocker brownie mix box...Dave Lebovitz would cringe!  I hope you're not too disappointed that the wonderful brownie recipe would qualify for that semi-homemade show on the Food Network; definitely not from Ina Garten!  

Me: Disappointed? Are you kidding? I am thrilled! I will make brownies from scratch, but I honestly don't think I get a better result than when I make them from a box. I am psyched to try out the Mrs D/Betty Crocker version.

Josh was over at our house again this weekend helping Dave re-insulate our house. (More on that another time.) Megan stopped by to join us for dinner. Since I was going to have the full cohort of brownie test subjects, I decided to make Mrs. D's version for comparison. The things I do for science, right? The unanimous verdict was that the semi-homemade version was superior to the Lebovitz from scratch version. We did extensive testing to back up our results.

So, if you are in the mood to make brownies from scratch, go for it. But if you have a box of Betty Crocker around, make this version of the cheesecake brownie. Just to be clear: Best. Brownies. Ever.

Here is Mrs. D's recipe:

Philly Cheesecake Brownies
Prep time:  20 minutes
Baking time:  40 minutes

1        pkg. Betty Crocker Dark Chocolate Fudge Brownie Mix
1        pkg. (8 oz.) Philadelphia Brand Cream Cheese, softened
1/3    cup sugar
1        egg   
1/2    tsp. vanilla
*I added 1/2 bag of chocolate chips to the batter as well.
Prepare brownie mix as directed on package.  Pour into greased 13x9-inch baking pan.
Beat cream cheese with electric mixer on medium until smooth.  Add sugar and vanilla;
           mix just until blended.
Pour cream cheese mixture over brownie mixture; cut through batter with knife several
           for marbled effect.
Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until cream cheese mixture is lightly browned.

Changes to original recipe:  I use an 8x8 pan, pour a little more than half of brownie mixture into prepared pan, dollop the cream cheese mixture over that (without spreading it), then pour rest of brownie mixture over the cream cheese and marble it very lightly.  I think we decided we didn't like too much of the cream cheese getting browned.  In my oven, the 8x8 pan takes 50-55 minutes.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Asian Flavored Chuck Roast

As a result of my meat order this winter, our freezers are overflowing with large hunks of meat. Lots of chuck roast and pork shoulder in particular. My favorite thing to do with these cuts is throw them in the slow cooker. Dave makes a fabulous pulled pork which I hope he will post about the next time he makes it. I have a couple of go-to recipes for chuck roast. One of my favorites, chuck roast with root vegetables is from the Food Network. It has a sweet, almost barbecue taste and you can use the left overs for bi bim bap, burritos, lettuce wraps or just serve them over cous cous. Last year I discovered an Asian flavored slow cooker recipe for chuck roast. Sadly, I didn't print it out, and after about 20 minutes of searching the web, I couldn't find the one I used previously. I decided to forge ahead and make it up. I live on the edge, it's true.

In a slow cooker, add
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • four cloves of garlic chopped
  • 2-3 inches of ginger root peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 cup soy sauce
  • 1 cup stock (I used chicken but beef or vegetable would work fine.)
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp Chinese five spice powder
  • Hot sauce to taste
  • 1 chuck roast covered in salt and pepper. The one I used was about 2 lbs.
Cook on high for 6 to 8 hours or until meat is falling apart to the touch. Shred with 2 forks, spoon some cooking liquid on top and serve with noodles, rice, stir fry etc.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Vietnamese Summer Rolls - Appetizer Extraordinaire

This weekend, our friend Josh came over for diner and brought his new girlfriend. We have had Josh as a guest maybe a thousand times, including vacations together, Christmas parties, full family dinners. Not only is Josh one of our best friends, but he is the easiest guest ever. He loves our kids and our dog. He gets along with our extended families. And most importantly, he will eat anything your serve up. He is the antithesis of the picky eater. (Though he swears that there was a period in his childhood when he subsisted almost entirely on hot dogs.)

This is all by way of saying that while I love to cook new things when Josh comes over, I don't fret if we are just serving up pizza or sandwiches or hot dogs for that matter. But the whole new girlfriend thing inspired me to go the extra mile. Here was the menu:

Cheesy crab in pastry cups courtesy of Mrs. D, Josh's mom
Vietnamese summer rolls, handmade right in my kitchen
Shredded Asian flavored beef
Stir-fried vegetables over udon noodles
Cheesecake brownies for dessert

With the exception of the stir fried veggies and noodles, which were pretty basic, every other dish was totally blog-worthy. (I will post more later this week, promise.) But the best part, in my humble opinion, was the summer rolls. I have always wanted to make these, and now that I have found and learned to sort of navigate an Asian grocery I was ready to give it a try.

Check out my knife skills. Perhaps Top Chef Moms Edition?
I consulted a variety of recipes on the web and basically used this one from The New York Times. The prep time on this recipe is not small because you have to carefully cut the vegetables to make them uniform size. That being said, it is well worth it. These were delicious, and I think that Megan, Josh's new girl, was suitably impressed. (Why I felt the need to impress her is not entirely clear to me - a subject for another blog entry...?)

Here is what I put in our summer rolls. There are, of course, tons of ways to vary this recipe to fit your needs and tastes.  Photos by Dave.

Here is all of the veggies chopped and ready to go.
  • cucumber - seeded and cut into long thin strips
  • jicama - halved, peeled and cut into long thin strips
  • 2 carrots julienned
  • mung bean sprouts
  • rice sticks and/or rice vermicelli - cooked and rinsed
  • cilantro, mint, Thai basil - roughly chopped
  • 1 lb medium shrimp - cooked, tail off. (You could also use chicken, pork, tofu or just go all veggie.)
  • 1 Korean hot pepper finely chopped (I only added this to a couple of rolls to make them spicy.)
  • rice paper 
Dave showing off his camera skills that are far superior to mine. Jealous much?
Here is what you do:
-Get out a large plate and put a damp paper towel on it
-Soak a rice paper in warm water for about 10 seconds and place it on your work surface
-Start with two shrimp and then add a little of everything else.
-Roll it up like a little burrito - fold the bottom up first, then fold in both sides, then roll the rest of the way up.
-Place on plate and refrigerate covered until ready to serve. I read several recipes that noted not to let the rolls touch on the plate. Also, several suggested to only prepare them 2 hours or less before serving, but I made them about 4 hours before go time and they were just fine.

I don't typically do the step-by-step photo thing. About a hundred other bloggers have cornered that market, but this once I am making an exception.

Ready to go. Yes, I have an apron with my name on it. Cooler than cool, right?

After you put in all of the ingredients, roll the bottom up first.

Then fold in each side.

Roll it up the rest of the way.

I believe I actually said, "Ta da!"
I served them with a peanut dipping sauce and a tangy fish/rice vinegar sauce. You can buy a good peanut sauce at Trader Joe's. If you want to make it, just combine a 1/4 cup of peanut butter with a little soy, some hoisin, some hot sauce like sriracha and some sugar/honey to sweeten. Just play with it until it tastes right to you. For the tangy sauce I combined a few tablespoons of rice vinegar, white sugar, sriracha, fish sauce and a little mirin until it tasted good.

These would be fun to do with kids, too. I made an all veggie one for Kara and she actually liked it. One warning, I had way more ingredients than I actually needed for 10 rolls. If you are going to make these, I recommend either making a lot and/or planning your weekday meals around an Asian theme to use up the delicious fresh herbs and vegetables in the fridge.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Rice and Eggs - The Classic Brinner

When I was growing up, one of my mother's classic breakfast, and sometimes dinner, dishes was rice and eggs. Using the left over rice from Chinese take-out, my mom could whip up a delicious meal. (I realize as I am writing this that I don't know what the origin of this meal was - Mom, if you are reading, fill us in.)

Now that I am a mom,  I come back to this "recipe" time and again. Not only does it taste great, it reminds me of my mom and how much I loved when she made this for me as a little girl. Beyond nostalgic reasons to love rice and eggs, I also love that it is easy, healthy and my kids will eat it. In fact, when Jamie was about a year old, he would eat rice and eggs, with some vegetable thrown in, just about every day for lunch.

Last night Dave was out for dinner, so of course Kara requested brinner for dinner. I was happy to oblige. The kids had waffles and eggs and I had a delicious plate of rice and eggs. In this iteration of the meal, I added some red peppers, chopped spinach and green onions. And though left-over Chinese restaurant rice works best, I had to settle for the brown rice hiding in the back of our refrigerator.

Here is the "recipe" - a term I apply loosely. I generally use 2 eggs per adult and 1 per child. You do the math.
  • Beat eggs with a little milk/water. Set aside.
  • If you are going to add veggies or meat, get them ready. I recommend finely chopping any additions.
  • Get the rice out. If it is really dry, like the kind in a take-out container, microwave it for a minute to soften it up.
  • In a frying pan melt enough butter to thoroughly coat the pan. Don't be shy. If using veggies, saute for a few minutes. Add the rice. I use about 1/4 cup per egg. Saute for a few minutes until rice is warmed through.
  • Add eggs and scramble. 
  • You can throw in some cheese at the end if you are in to that kind of thing. 
  • Serve alone or with anything that you might put with eggs: ketchup, salsa, hot sauce, bbq sauce. Personally, I love it with mango chutney. But I am a freak.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Quick Breads

I am not by any means an accomplished baker. I can make cookies, brownies and the occasional cake, but my lack of precision in the kitchen does not really lend itself to baking. I may scoff at recipes that suggest that you weigh the flour instead of just using your fingers to brush off the excess in the measuring cup, but it turns out that attention to detail really does make a difference when baking.

Quick breads, I have found, are the exception to this rule. Make one, you can make them all. Make one, and you can make a dozen variations. Make one with your kids, they will have the pleasure of eating a snack that they cooked with you.

Banana bread is the gateway quick bread. It is nearly impossible to mess up and can be a template for countless iterations of baked goods (like the apple sauce raisin bread I wrote about a few weeks ago).

My favorite banana bread recipe is from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook.

  • Preheat oven to 350 and grease a loaf pan.
  • In a small bowl mash 3 super ripe bananas. (Tip: If your bananas go dark brown before you are ready to use them, just toss them in the freezer and defrost when you are ready to bake. Also, if you are dying to have banana bread, but your bananas are actually fresh, you can ripen them in the oven.)
  • Add 2 eggs to bananas and set aside.
  • In a mixing bowl combine 2 cups flour, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp baking soda.
  • Combine wet and dry and pour into pan. Bake 1 hour. 
This will all take about 10 minutes to prepare.

Some variations to consider:
  • Only have one brown banana? Use pureed pumpkin, sweet potato, carrot, zucchini (grated) or apple sauce to supplement. No bananas at all, just pick a different fruit/vegetable.
  • No fruit or veggie to add in, you can use dried fruit instead and add more liquid to the batter (milk, juice, soy milk, water, yogurt, kefir, sour cream etc.) You may also need to add a little more sugar if you want to keep the bread on the "fruity" end of the spectrum.
  • Add some wheat germ, ground flax or quick oats for a little more texture. 
  • Experiment with different sweeteners: honey, molasses, agave, brown sugar etc.
  • Add chocolate chips and make it sweeter.
  • Add some fat - butter or oil - to make a richer loaf.
  • Top it with streusel.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Crispy Quesadillas

As I have written about previously, I love quesadillas. They are the easy and nutritious. They are universally loved in my house. And they are an opportunity to use up the dribs and drabs of leftovers in the fridge.

For my lunch today I tried a new spin on the traditional quesadillas that we make here, and the results were delicious. Instead of using a wheat tortilla (from Trader Joe's) and folding it in half, I used two small corn tortillas (also from TJ's). Just a quick note: read the ingredients before you buy tortillas - my friend Val had the disturbing experience of realizing that the corn tortillas she bought contained a slew of chemical ingredients. What the hell? Anyway...back to my lunch. Here's how I built my super crispy quesadilla:

Slice of colby cheese since that was what was in the fridge
A couple of tablespoons of black beans because that was what was left in the Tupperware
A scoop of brown rice left from our bi bim bop feast on Saturday night
A few spinach leaves that were too wilty to eat in salad at this point
A dash of onion, garlic and chipotle powders
Another slice of cheese

I cooked it up in my cast iron skillet and put some salsa and sour cream on the side. I happened to go to Whole Foods to buy oats  for our overnight oatmeal today and picked up a little container of salsa fresca - so good. (BTW: Bulk oats are $.99 a pound which is a great deal.) Corn tortillas get nice and crispy on the skillet, and they are the perfect size for one serving. Also, the rice added a little substance to compensate for the small amount of beans that I had on hand.

I have just decided that this is what we are having for dinner. I suspect that Dave will add pickled jalepenos to his. Kara might want some chopped red pepper with the beans and cheese. I may go crazy and spread the last of my homemade ricotta on mine. Can't wait.