Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Grandma Betty's Banana Bread and The Creaking Tree

This recipe comes from Eric's grandmother and made an appearance in my novel, The Creaking Tree. A grownup fairy tale, the book tells the story of Louisa, a food-writer, and her trip to the Other Side of the Creaking Tree (read synposis below the recipe). The book is peppered with recipes, including this one. I couldn't think of a more perfect banana bread recipe for the book than the one that belonged to Eric's grandma. Eric's mom added the chocolate chips and I've enjoyed it more than once. In fact, I may have eaten the majority of the last loaf . . . it's just so good!

2 cups flour
dash of salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 very ripe bananas
2 eggs
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease loaf pan.

In a medium bowl, sift flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda together; set aside.

In a small bowl, mash bananas and combine with the eggs; set aside.

In a large bowl, cream shortening with brown sugar. Mix the banana mixture into the shortening mixture. Gradually add the flour mixture into the third bowl while mixing. Combine well. Fold in the chocolate chips. Pour batter into loaf pan.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until the center of the loaf sets.


The Creaking Tree

Nestled in a little riverside cabin in northern Michigan, food-writer and newlywed Louisa is working on her first cookbook, a collection of delectable recipes inspired by the foods found in fairy tales. The only nuisance to disrupt her work is a creaking tree across the river. All summer long it grows louder and more persistent. When Louisa can no longer take it, she splashes across the river to silence the tree once and for all. But little does she know that the creaking tree is more than just a tree; it’s a portal to an ensorcelled forest of kings and queens, witches and huntsmen.

Hopelessly lost in this strange and wonderful sylvan land, Louisa crosses paths with licentious dwarfs, follows a breadcrumb trail, and encounters a rogue huntsman, Roan. Roan explains that the Other Side is ruled by the nefarious King Lyall, who is more concerned with the state of his cock than his kingdom. He has imprisoned the mysterious Queen Anora in the enchanted Apple Grove. In order to return home, Louisa must travel deep into the forest and save the Queen . . . as well as herself.
Click the My Books tab at the top of the page to check out more of my works.


More Bread Recipes
Chocolate Chip Banana Bread in a Mug 
Homemade Bread Sticks 
Homemade Flour Tortillas
Homemade Pita Bread
Parmesan Onion Rolls 
Pull Apart Pizza Bread  
Pull-Apart Spinach and Cheese Bread
Pumpkin Bread!
Sour Cream Dinner Rolls 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Homemade Chocolate Ice Cream

With the weather finally warming up, we brought out the ice cream maker once again. What flavor to make . . . why chocolate of course!

1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup heavy cream
pinch of salt
1/4 cup cocoa powder

Prepare your ice cream maker according to machine directions. Ours requires ice, salt, and a chilled canister.

Combine the milk sugar, salt, and cocoa powder. Stir in heavy cream. Place the mixture in your ice cream maker and churn for 1 hour or until the ice cream thickens. 



Also try:
Red Wine Ice Cream
Going Bananas: Dairy-Free Ice Cream
Chocolate Syrup
Homemade Caramel Sauce 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Margarita Chicken and Steak Fajitas

Memorial Day is almost upon us and that means grilling out. I cannot recommend these margarita fajitas enough. I was looking through pages and pages of fajita marinade recipes and each one called for lime juice. Well, the only lime juice I had in the house was a bottle of margaritas. Used that in place of the lime juice, combined a bunch of the recipes, and I came up with this. So good. I already want to make it again.

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
1 medium steak
1/4 cup margarita or margarita mix
2 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon black pepper


Fajita fixings such as bell peppers, onions, cheese, etc.

In a medium bowl, whisk together margarita, olive oil, soy sauce, garlic, cayenne, cumin, coriander, and black pepper. Divide marinade between two bowls or two large Ziploc bags. Add chicken strips to one bowl and the steak to the other. Cover and place in the fridge; marinate for at least 3 hours (Honestly, you want to marinate overnight. 3 hours gives you just a hint of the marinade compared to marinating it overnight).

Grill meats until cooked. (I made mine on the George Foreman grill). Cut the steak into strips. Make fajitas using your favorite fixing--onions, bell peppers, cheese, salsa, hot sauce, guacamole.

I didn't have any peppers on hand, but I made my chicken fajitas with caramelized onions, cheese, salsa, and hot sauce. Eric made his steak fajitas with cheese, salsa, and hot sauce.



More Chicken Recipes:
Chicken Enchiladas with Fire-Roasted Tomatoes
Chile and Tomato Shredded Chicken with Cheese Sauce
Corn and Black Bean Skillet Chicken 
Jalapeno Popper Chicken
Lime Mustard Chicken

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Pancakes with Raspberry Sauce

Fruit sauces--cherry, strawberry, raspberry, blueberry--so perfect for summer. They go on ice cream, brownies, and breakfast food like waffles, French toast, and pancakes. Well, my raspberries were about to go bad and I didn't know what to make for dinner--which usually means breakfast for dinner (or canned soup).

For the pancakes I used Martha Stewart's recipe, but you can use boxed pancake mix too.

1 cup flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 egg

Raspberry Sauce
3 cups raspberries
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup water

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a medium bowl, combine the milk, butter, and egg. Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and combine. Be careful not to overmix.

Grease skillet or griddle with cooking spray and heat over medium heat.

Spoon 2 to 3 tablespoons of batter onto the skillet to make one pancake. Cook until surface of pancakes develops bubbles and a few of the bubbles have burst, about 1 to 2 minutes. Flip and cook until browned on the underside, another 1 to 2 minutes. Repeat with remaining batter. (Recipes makes approximately a dozen pancakes).

Raspberry Sauce
Mix sugar and cornstarch together in a saucepan. Stir in water. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring continuously, until the mixture thickens. Add raspberries and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for approximately 10 minutes.

Pour raspberry sauce over pancakes.



More Breakfast Recipes:
French Toast in a Mug
Homemade Hash Browns
Individual Bacon and Cheese Quiches
Monkey Bread Muffins 
Pumpkin Oatmeal
Quiche in a Mug

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Orange Chicken with Fried Rice

I can't believe I'm going to say this, but we no longer need to order out for orange chicken. Now, I have a very good crockpot orange chicken recipe (my mom absolutely loves it--she says it's even better the second day) but for real orange chicken, you need it breaded and fried (this coming from a girl who generally prefers her chicken baked or grilled). I've made more than a few variations of it since orange chicken is something Eric and I both love; we almost always order it when we get Chinese. Eric has already perfected fried rice--honestly, I'd rather have his fried rice than a restaurant's fried rice--and I figured out the perfect breading a while ago. So I've been working on the sauce. Soon as Eric tasted it, he told me I nailed it. He also ate leftovers for his lunch and dinner the next day (which is a big deal because he isn't big into leftovers).

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
3/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 eggs, beaten
Oil for frying

Orange Sauce
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
3/4 cup orange marmalade 
1/2 teaspoon garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons water

Eric's Fried Rice

Toasted Sesame Seeds (optional)

Prepare Fried Rice and Toasted Sesame Seeds first.

Place the cornstarch, salt, and pepper in a shallow dish and combine. In a second shallow dish, beat the eggs. In a third shallow dish, pour panko breadcrumbs. Dredge the chicken pieces in the cornstarch, dip in egg, then coat in panko.

Heat oil over medium-high heat. In batches, cook chicken until the breading is a golden brown and the meat is cooked all the way through. Place chicken on a paper towel-lined plate.

Orange Sauce
In a large saucepan, combine 1 1/2 cup water, vinegar, soy sauce, marmalade, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Over medium heat, bring to a boil.

In a small bowl or glass, dissolve 3 tablespoons of cornstarch into 2 tablespoons of water. Slowly pour into sauce. Stir until sauce reaches the desired thickness.

Pour sauce over chicken and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds (you don't have to do the sesame seeds, but Eric and I have discovered that they make everything better). Serve with fried rice.

Arya sulking because she was exiled from the kitchen while we cooked.



More Chicken Recipes:
Baked Garlic Chicken
Chicken Enchiladas with Fire-Roasted Tomatoes
Chicken Patties
Jalapeno Popper Chicken
Corn and Black Bean Skillet Chicken 
Parmesan Chicken Casserole 
Pizza Inspired Chicken  

Friday, May 16, 2014

Crockpot: Zesty Shredded Chicken Sandwiches

This meal has quickly become one of our favorites. Who knew that just three ingredients in a slow cooker could have this much flavor. Eric only wanted to make one change: add bacon. Of course, that's a change he'd make to almost any recipe out there.

3 to 4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (thawed or frozen both work)
1/2 cup Italian dressing
1 15-ounce can of diced tomatoes, drained

Cheddar cheese, optional
Kraft Chipotle Mayo, optional
Bacon, optional

Grease slow cooker with cooking spray. Place chicken breasts in the slow cooker. Pour dressing over chicken then add the diced tomatoes.

Cook on Low for 5 to 6 hours. Shred chicken with two forks. Assemble sandwiches.



More Slow Cooker Recipes:
Alfredo Green Bean Casserole
Brown Sugar and Garlic Chicken 
Chile and Tomato Shredded Chicken with Cheese Sauce
Creamy Butternut Squash Soup
Hot Spinach and Artichoke Dip
Mashed Potatoes
Orange Chicken
Pumpkin Butter
Simply the Best Macaroni and Cheese
Tomato and Artichoke Chicken

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Popcorn on the Stovetop

I'm not going to lie, microwave popcorn is much easier to make, but stovetop popcorn is a lot more fun. Watching the kernels pop, the popcorn growing in the pan. And it brought back a bunch of childhood memories for both me and Eric. We remembered our moms making popcorn for movie nights and digging through the popcorn bowl for those butter-saturated pieces.

Recipe from here.

3 tablespoons canola oil
1/3 cup popcorn kernels
butter, to taste
salt, to taste

Heat oil over medium-high heat in a large saucepan. Toss in 2 or 3 kernels and cover the lid.

When the kernels pop, add the remaining popcorn kernels and replace lid. Remove from heat and count to 30 then return to heat. This helps all the kernels pop at the same time.

Once the majority of the kernels begin to pop, gently shake the pan back and forth over the burner. Place the lid askew so the steam can be released, which will result in crispier popcorn.

When there are several seconds between pops, remove the pan from the heat and pour the popcorn into a large bowl. 

If you want butter on your popcorn, place 2 tablespoons (or as much as you desire) into the hot pan. It will melt without you having to turn the stove back on. Salt to taste.



More Snack Recipes:
Baked Apple Chips
Homemade Pizza Rolls
Yogurt-Covered Blueberries
Zucchini Chips 2.0
Parmesan Garlic Wonton Crackers 

Homemade Pepper Jack Cheez-its

So these crackers didn't even last a day--but in my defense, I only made half a batch. Cheez-its have always been my favorite snack crackers so I can't believe it's taken me this long to make my own. However, I didn't have enough cheddar to make traditional Cheez-its, so I made pepper jack instead. So good. Eric is lucky I set aside some for him and didn't devour them all myself. (Eric's share of the bounty quickly disappeared too, I might add).

Recipe adapted from here.

2 cups pepper jack cheese, shredded
4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons water

In a large bowl, beat cheese, butter, and salt. Gradually add flour and mix on low until your dough resembles coarse crumbs. Adding the water as needed, mix the dough together using your hands until it forms a ball. Shape the dough into a flat round, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for approximately 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet with cooking spray.

Divide dough into half. Roll each half into a very thin rectangle (1/8 inch or less in thickness). Using a butter knife (or a pizza cutter or if you're fancy, a fluted pastry cutter), cut the dough into 1-inch squares. If desired, use a toothpick to make a hole in the center of each cracker. Transfer squares to baking sheet.

Bake for 13 to 15 minutes or until the crackers are puffed and browned on the edges. Place on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container.



More Snack Recipes:
Yogurt-Covered Blueberries
Zucchini Chips 2.0
Potato Chips in the Microwave
Jalapeno Popper Wontons
Homemade Pita Chips 
Homemade Pizza Rolls 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Chocolate Covered Cherry Cookies

This recipe has made an appearance on here before under Cake Mix Cookies, along with three other cake mix cookie recipes. They are my go-to gift cookies because: a.) everyone loves these cookies and b.) they are super easy to make. They also happen to be one of my all time favorite cookies--they really do taste like chocolate covered cherries. Since I just happened to make them again today and was reminded just how spectacular they are, I decided to give them their very own post. These cookies deserve it!

1 package Betty Crocker Cherry Chip cake mix
2 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat the cake mix, eggs and oil together until the batter becomes stiff. Stir in chocolate chips. Roll the dough into 1-inch balls and place on a cookie sheet. Bake for approximately 10 minutes or until the cookie bottoms turn a golden brown.



More Cookie Recipes:
Baileys White Chocolate Chip Cookies
Smores Cookies!
Soft Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
Spiced Rum Brown Butter Cookies 
Malted Chocolate Chip Cookies 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Chickpea Veggie Burgers

I've made quite a few veggie burgers over the years, searching for that one I'd want to eat over and  over again. Well, I think I've finally found it. And it's incredibly simple: chickpeas, stuffing mix, onion, and lemon juice.

1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained, rinsed, and dried
1 cup herbed stuffing mix (I used Stouffers)
2 tablespoons minced onion
2 to 4 tablespoons lemon juice
salt and pepper, to taste.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a cookie sheet with cooking spray.

Coarsely mash the chickpeas with a potato masher so you have a paste with some chickpea chunks in it. Stir in stuffing mix and onions. Add lemon juice a tablespoon at a time until the mixture holds together. Salt and pepper to taste. Shape into patties (I made five).

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, flip burgers, (add cheddar cheese if you want--I did and it's delicious), and bake for another 10 to 12 minutes.

Dress your veggie burger up however you'd like--cheese, tomatoes, lettuce bun.



More Healthy Recipes:
Yogurt-Covered Blueberries
Zucchini Chips 2.0
Baked Apple Chips
Chickpea Chocolate Chip Cookies
Black Bean Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Cookies
Skinny Peanut Butter Brownies