Treasuring The Journey

Treasuring the journey through life, one footstep at a time.

Baking in the New Year – Banana Bread January 2, 2011

Filed under: Cooking — Treasuring The Journey @ 12:17 PM
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Hello Everyone,

It has been a while since I posted, life just seemed to get busy with, well, life. Work was hectic, Christmas swooped in really quick, I got sick, blah blah blah. The blog suffered as a result. Boo on me, but I am back in the saddle again and ready to make 2011 a great year, which will include regular blog posts about whatever is happening. I hope each of you is enjoying 2011 so far and that this year is full of blessings for everyone. 2010 was a great year for me – engaged, married, pregnant all in that order and all within the 1st half of the year. The second half of 2010 has been all about pregnancy which so far has been a great experience. I also started my blog in the second half of 2010 so that is an added bonus. 🙂 Here’s to a great 2011! WOO HOO!

On the 1st day of the year, I decided to don my chef hat and try out a new recipe. I had some VERY, VERY, VERY RIPE bananas that either needed to be added to the compost bin or I need to use them in a recipe. I opted to try them in a recipe. I whipped out my cookbook “Six Ingredients of Less” by Carlean Johnson and looked for a banana bread or muffin recipe. You can buy the cookbook here. I highly recommend this cookbook for someone who is learning their way around the kitchen. Most recipes are extremely easy! I found a recipe for Banana Bread and I had all six ingredients: butter, sugar, very ripe bananas, eggs, baking soda, and flour. YEA! No trip to the grocery store!

Here I have all the ingredients set out. Check out those black bananas! I told you they were VERY, VERY, VERY RIPE!

First, I combined the butter and sugar (1st taste test was yummy), then I added the bananas and eggs. No more taste tests for me due to the raw eggs. The recipe called for 2 cups of very raw bananas. I did not measure how much I actually had, I only had 3 very ripe bananas so that is what I used. It looked like it was close to 2 cups worth. Up to this point I had been mixing by hand. Upon adding the baking soda and flour, I had to bring out the big guns…the electric mixer. My hands/wrists hurt (pregnancy issue) and therefore mixing a bigger load by hand was out of the question. I used the mixer on the lowest setting so that my flour did not go everywhere (I learned this lesson on a previous cooking attempt a while back and had flour everywhere, while funny, it was messy to clean up).

Here is my minimal mess to clean-up once I was done mixing. Not too bad!

The recipe says it will make 2 loaves of bread, but I only had one 9x5x3 loaf pan so I opted to make one loaf of bread and the rest in muffins. I sprayed both pans with some Pam cooking spray to avoid sticking. Note to self and to you – use muffin pan liners…it is easier and you won’t have the same burnt edge issue I ended up with. I filled the loaf pan about 1/2 full and popped it into the oven. 350 degrees for 50 minutes. I next filled the muffin cups about 2/3rds full and put those in the other oven. 400 degrees for 10 minutes. In the recipe book, the recipe below the Banana Bread recipe was for cornbread muffins and called for the 400 degree temperature for 10 minutes so that is why I used that setting. I was WRONG! I should have used a lower temperature.

*On a side note, after I had poured the batter for the loaf bread, I decided to add some chopped pecans for the muffins. I stirred in about 1/2 cup of pecans.

The bread turned out BEAUTIFUL and it tasted YUMMY! Betty Crocker would be pleased! I was pleasantly surprised at my success. The muffins, well, not so great. If you like the edges of your muffins a bit crispy then you would love these muffins. I prefer very soft, no crisp muffins, so after cutting off the edges I was able to eat them. They were yummy on the inside. I concluded that the non-stick cooking spray that I used pooled on the edges of the muffins and that is what actually burned. So I probably used an excess amount of cooking spray and too high of a temperature that resulted in my burnt crispy muffins.

Ooo La La Banana Bread:

Here is the bread after Day 1 – we have eaten almost half of it. I ate two slices with a glass of milk while typing this post. 🙂

Lessons Learned:
1. If making muffins, use a lower temperature, 300-350 degrees should suffice.
2. Use a larger mixing bowl than I originally select. I almost invariably pick a bowl that is too small to mix everything in and have to dump my ingredients halfway through into a larger bowl. This happened to me in this recipe as well.
3. Use muffin liners, don’t bother with the cooking spray.

Here is the full recipe:
Banana Bread
Ingredients:
– 1 cup butter, softened
– 1 3/4 cups sugar
– 2 cups mashed very ripe bananas
– 4 large eggs, well beaten
– 2 teaspoons baking soda
– 2 1/4 cups flour
(makes 2 loaves)

Directions:
1. In a LARGE mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add bananas and eggs.
2. Combine baking soda and flour. Add to banana mixture, stirring by hand, until flour is moistened.
3. Pour batter into two sprayed 9x5x3-inch loaf pans.
4. Bake 50-55 minutes or until tester inserted in center comes out clean.
5. Run knife around edge and turn out immediately. Cool on a rack.

So, try this recipe when you have some of those yucky, I mean yummy, very ripe black bananas. The result is quite tasty! I will definitely be making this recipe in the future as we seem to always end up with some very ripe bananas. My mother-in-law advised that when I only have one very ripe banana, to stick it in a ziplock bag and toss it into the freezer. Once I have enough to make the recipe, let the bananas thaw and they are ready to use in the recipe. 🙂 Thanks, Nanette, for the tip!

Have a great Sunday everyone! Tomorrow it is back to the grindstone!
Iris

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Mama Mia Lasagna December 9, 2010

Filed under: Cooking — Treasuring The Journey @ 10:46 PM
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Hello Everyone,

I am not anywhere close to being a chef, Betty Crocker, Rachel Ray, etc….the kitchen and I are not great friends. I can cook, I just don’t necessarily enjoy cooking. I am trying to grow my cooking wings and try to cook dishes that I have never tried to cook and broaden my cooking skills. I have been inspired by my cousin (we are technically 3rd cousins I think), Grace. Grace writes a blog, Life 2 Seriously, and she has been featuring every week a post about her adventures with “On the Box” Recipes. She finds a recipe “on the box” of food and goes through her process of preparing, cooking, and eating the new dishes. Grace is also trying to become more kitchen/cooking savvy and so far has done an excellent job on improving her skills.

I have been wanting to try to cook lasagna for a while now. On a recent shopping trip to Aldi, I came across lasagna noodles and saw the “on the box” recipe for lasagna. So, here we go.

Here are all of my ingredients ready to go:

First step is to cook the lasagna noodles. Bring 4 quarts of water to a rapid boil in a large pot. Gradually add the lasagna pieces to the boiling water. Stir gently and return to a rapid boil. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally for 12-14 minutes, or until desired degree of tenderness is reached. Drain and set aside until ready to put into the baking dish.

I realized why the recipe called for gradually adding the lasagna pieces…my pot was not big enough for the lasagna pieces to fit in perfectly so I had to wait for the first few noodles to get soft enough so that I could then add in more pieces.

As the lasagna pieces are boiling, brown the sausage (ground beef).

Here is how I minced my garlic. I used a garlic press.

Add in garlic to the sausage (ground beef) and cook for 2 more minutes. The food started to smell wonderful. Now add the sauce to the sausage (ground beef) and remove from heat. I should have used a slightly bigger skillet as mine almost overflowed.

The lasagna pieces should be done by now, so drain the water off and set aside.

Combine the remaining ingredients: spinach, ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, 1 cup mozzarella cheese, egg, salt, pepper.

Now comes the part of layering the sauce, noodles, and cheese. Sauce 1st, next lasagna, and then cheese…Repeat!

Once you get finished with the layers (I ended up with only 3 layers due to a shallow baking dish), top the last layer off with sauce and sprinkle the 1 cup of mozzarella cheese ove the top.

I remembered to pre-heat the oven and now we are ready to bake. 45 minutes later, we have this:

The cheese burned a little more (ok, a LOT more) than I expected.  Next time I think I will wait to add the mozzarella cheese layer later in the baking process.

Now to cut it up and serve it up.

Verdict on the Reggano Lasagna:
Pete: MMMM, MMMM, MMMM! This is awesome!
Iris: I thought it was good, I was a little frustrated the top burnt so badly, but I know what to do for next time.
Overall:  I will definitely cook the lasagna again. Maybe next time I will also add some black olives and some mushrooms.
Added Bonus: I ended up with 12 servings so we now have 10 servings to save as leftovers. Yea!

On the Box Recipe: Reggano Lasagna

Ingredients:
12 lasagna pasta pieces
1 pound mild Italian sausage*
2 cloves garlic, minced
24 ounces, tomato basil or marinara sauce
10 ounces frozen, chopped spinach (thawed and drained)**
32 ounces ricotta cheese (about 4 cups)
8 ounces shreddd mozzarella cheese (about 2 cups)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 egg, beaten
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
13″ x 9″ baking pan

* I used 1 pound of ground beef, since sausage gives me more indigestion than I care for right now at 6 months pregnant!
**I used one 12 ounce can of canned chopped spinach, not the frozen kind.

Directions:

  • Prepare lasagna pieces according to package directions, boiling for 9 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, cook and crumble sausage in large skillet, pour off any grease. Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add sauce and stir well; remove from heat.
  • Drain spinach and press out any excess moisture. Combine ricotta cheese, spinach, 1 cup mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, egg, salt and pepper.
  • In the 13″ x 9″ baking dish, spread a thin layer of sauce (about 3/4 cup) on bottom of the dish. Arrange 3 cooked lasagna pieces over sause. Spread approximately 1/3 of the cheese mixture over the lasagna pieces. Spoon about 3/4 cup of sauce over the cheese.
  • Repeat layers topping the last layer of lasagna with remaining sauce and spread 1 cup mozzarella cheese.
  • Bake in preheated 375 degree oven for 40-45 minutes until hot throughout.

Makes 6 servings.

Prep Time:  1 hour (that is how long it took me, the rookie)
Cook Time:  45 minutes
Total time start to finish:  2 hours (I allowed 15 minutes for it to cool before cutting)

Yea! I did it and it was actually good!
Iris, AKA Chef Williams (LOL!)