Tag Archives: cooking

Banana Bread

Had a request recently for our banana bread recipe.  Here goes:

Pre-heat oven to 350F.1375687_10101594666881608_2118844223_n
In a large bowl, mix:
3-4 ripe smashed bananas (we sometimes use frozen ones too)
1/3 cup canola or coconut oil
1/2 cup sugar (we’ve cut this down from other recipes already)
1 egg (pre-beaten)
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Typically I mix each item before I add the next item.  We usually sift the flour into the bowl and mix it in every 1/2 cup.  A tip: we typically use a wooden spoon to mix this recipe.

Pour the batter into a prepared baking device.  We typically use one large loaf pan or we have a set of 4 smaller loaf pans that we really like too.  You could use almost any baking device for your banana bread.

For the bigger loaf pan, it takes about an hour at 350.  For the 4 smaller pans, we test the bread after more like 20-25 min.  You are looking for a toothpick to come out dry.

Some folks like to add things to their banana bread.  We often like to add raisins.  Sometimes we’ve added nuts too.  Really just add whatever you want – banana bread is pretty easy & a great snack.

Just one tip for banana bread.  It travels really really well.  I’ve baked a loaf and taken it to a conference to be eaten in the hotel instead of the hotel breakfast.  We’ve baked the little loafs and taken 1-2 of them on a plane ride with us.  Banana bread also does really well on road trips.  Often we will spread peanut butter or honey all over a slice and call that a nice snack. You can also freeze banana bread.  I don’t personally like doing that (just something about the texture) – but, I know plenty of folks who do.

I think the best part of banana bread for me, aside from the smell when it is baking, is that it is good at any time of year.  We don’t make this in any particular season more than any others.

Here are the original recipe cards we had sent to us – you’ll notice some extra notes/comments & other differences:
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photo 2

 

What sorts of things do you do with banana bread? How is your recipe different?

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Basil

It is basil season!  Woah!  It was all over the market last weekend & will continue for the next few weeks I’d imagine.  I love basil season.

photo (9)This was the fresh herb basket at the market the other day.

What I’m currently learning more about are the different varieties of basil.  I knew there was a lemon basil, Thai basil, a purple basil, and sweet basil – photo 1but I didn’t know about the holy basil variety. Holy cow that smells different!  At times, it might be a bit overwhelming.  Our local farmer introduced me to this variety.  It is VERY different.  We have tried it a few different ways this week.

As usual, some background from wikipedia

  • basil is from the mint family (Lamiacae)
  • basil was originally discovered in India & other tropical areas of Asia
  • basil has been cultivated for more than 5000 years
  • most varieties of basil are annuals
  • Sweet Basil is typically found in Italian food
  • Thai, holy, and others are typically found in Asian food

In my head, basil was mostly linked directly to a nice caprese salad.  I also thought of it a lot in red pasta/pizza sauce.  I also knew sweet basil was a primary ingredient in most pesto sauces.  As I have cooked more, I started to use Thai basil more in my cooking.  I actually assumed Thai basil and Sweet basil were totally unrelated.  Go figure!

Basil Pesto:
I’m sure there are a million versions of pesto recipe’s.  A basic one includes a big bunch of cleaned basil leaves, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, and parmesan (optional) – all blended together in a food processor.  Change the ratio around to taste.  Variants include blanching the basil leaves first, toasting the pine nuts, using pecans or other nuts, or adding other herbs (cilantro!).  Please feel free to post your favorite pesto recipe in the comments.
It is also super easy to freeze pesto.  Make your pesto then put it ice cube trays in the freezer.  After a few hours, it should be solid.  Then transfer the pesto to a large plastic bag.  Label the bag and store it in your freezer.  Whenever you need pesto, just grab one of the chunks!

Basil Pizza:
We make pizza somewhat frequently.  Fresh basil on a pizza can be wonderful.  A very simple pizza can include a light dusting of red sauce, some whole basil leaves, fresh sliced tomatoes, and slices of fresh mozzarella.  Another option is to put the basil pesto on the pizza as your sauce instead of a red sauce.  We LOVE this.  It creates quite an amazing base to your pizza.  Try pesto, caramelized onions, and anchovies – if you want to try a family favorite.

Caprese Salad:
A favorite of mine!  Slice some tomatoes, some fresh mozzarella, and some basil on top.  Be sure to sprinkle some balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and some salt & pepper to taste.  This is a lovely salad is quick and easy.  Try to find some heirloom tomatoes at your local market and experiment with the different tastes.  That can really enhance the flavor profile of your salad!

Basil Lemon sorbet:
Our farmer friend was really trying to encourage us to try something creative with the Holy basil.  There was a sale on lemons at the store.  We used google.  We found this great recipe on the Oh My Veges blog.  Unfortunately we do not have Meyer lemons around- but, normal lemons worked well.  The Holy basil added a HUGE flavor punch to the sorbet.

Basil in your Omelet/eggs:
We regularly make scrambled eggs with herbs.  Cutting up some fresh basil and mixing it into your eggs (while you scramble them) along with some salt & pepper can add some great flavor to your breakfast.

Basil with various other dishes:
Adding basil to sautéed seasonal vegetables can be great.  We were cooking summer squash the other day  with some left over garlic scapes we found buried in a friend’s fridge the other day – added some chopped basil and it was great!
You could also add some fresh chopped basil to baked fish.
Basil as a primary ingredient in a soup stock would be lovely too.  You could freeze that easily for use in the colder months.

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With all of these great ideas for basil you might want to have basil around throughout more of the year.  Basil is easy to store.  You can wash the leaves, dry them, then put them flat in a large freezer bag in the freezer.  We do this with basil and cilantro.

Lots of great ideas for basil here.  Wondering what are some of your favorite uses? Please leave a comment!

Summer Squash

This week we are talking about summer squash!  I figure mid-July is late enough in the year to examine this fruit – that is often treated as a vegetable!

First off, there are many many different items that are loosely classified as ‘summer squash.’  There are zucchini, yellow squash, pattypan squash, tromboncino….  The list goes on & on!  For the most part, all of them can be used the same way & are part of the Cucurbita pepo family.  (Thank you Wikipedia!)

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Photos of some small summer squash we found while in Montreal last week visiting the Jean-Talon Marche.

photo 1Our local farmers are all selling various summer squash now.  We got some amazing zucchini and yellow squash from River to River Farm this week at the Canon Park Market.  They were also selling patty squash.

Interestingly enough, (thanks Wikipedia again) summer squash are really just under-ripe winter squash varieties.  These particular varieties typically have softer outer ‘skins’ which can typically be eaten raw or cooked.

Cooking ideas:
As usual, I reached out on Facebook and Twitter for ideas about how to cook this week’s item.  I received a great idea from @TinaTormey this week:

Screen Shot 2013-07-11 at 6.47.36 PM   CDT    Thursday, July 11, 2013AD

 

 

 

Sautéed:
This is a favorite method of ours.  Wash your squash, cut off the ends (typically a stem is on one end), then slice the squash into bite sized pieces.  We often slice them into ‘half moons’ (usually with zucchini or yellow squash) – to do this, take the squash, cut it lengthwise to end up with two long pieces, then slice the squash up the length of the fruit.  You end up with little pieces looking like half moons.

From there, put some olive oil in a warm skillet, let the oil warm up, and toss the squash in!  Let them heat up some – you will notice them starting to sweat a bit and change size/color a bit.

To spice this up, add some garlic (before you cook them) or really any spices you like.

Grilled:
1044203_10101401048878638_836205514_nI feel like we grill a lot of vegetables!  But, summer squash grills really well too!  On Tuesday, at our weekly grill-out, we grilled up some zucchini.  We had cut them long wise, marinated them in olive oil and salt/pepper.  As a reminder, grilled zucchini (especially cut thicker like I sometimes do) takes a lot longer to grill than you might expect, and if they’re in strips they can slip between the bars on the grill.

In this photo you see the zucchini, some red peppers, and some local beef sausages from Josh at Lick Creek Beef.

Steamed:
Prepare the same way you did the sautéed squash & steam instead!

We also put squash in a wide variety of dishes.  Today, we put some zucchini in a recipe of Dal that we had for lunch.  It was dal-icious!

How do you like your summer squash? What recipes do you put it in?

Kohlrabi… what?

This week we are talking about Kohlrabi.  By the end of this post my hope is that you are familiar with the vegetable enough to buy one and eat it!

To start with this is what a kohlrabi looks like.photo 1

Kohlrabi is part of the cabbage family.  There are three basic parts to this vegetable.  The leaves, outer skin, and inner parts.  The leaves and inner parts are eatable.  Treat the leaves as you would any cooking greens.  The inner parts are similar in texture to a radish or broccoli stems.  The taste is similar to broccoli stems, jicama, or maybe even a faint apple or potato.

According to the folks at the Natural Agricultural Library… kohlrabi is full of some good vitamins and minerals.

Our farmer friends from River to River Farm asked us to take a closer look at this vegetable this week and present some cooking options.  So, here goes!

Grilled
photo 2After some googling & asking around someone mentioned grilling the kohlrabi.  We have a weekly grilling night with some co-workers so we figured we’d give it a try!  We cut the kohlrabi into ~1/4 inch slices, brushed with olive oil, stuck them on skewers, and grilled for 10-15 min.  They were amazing!  We are definitely doing this again.

Raw
We often try foods raw first.  We sliced the kohlrabi up and put some salt, pepper, and olive oil on them,  They were good.  I see us putting small pieces in salad in the future.

Roasted
We love roasted veges.  Toss an assortment of vegetables in a baking pan with olive oil and let your 350 degree oven do its magic for about an hour.  With the kohlrabi, I’d cut them into 1/2 inch chunks.

Kohlrabi Curry
We have been on a big Indian food kick lately.  Preparing for some upcoming blogs posts…
I googled and found these two posts: Kohlrabi Curry & Kohlrabi Greens Curry – I knew we needed to try them both.  We followed the recipe’s (minus the pressure cooker – as we don’t have one yet) and found both to be a bit bland – but good.

Kohlrabi and feta quiche
Plan on trying this recipe next weekend.  Looks good to me!

So, those are some ways to use this great vegetable!  Who would have thought something that looks vaguely like an alien could taste so good!

What have your experiences been with the kohlrabi? How do you prepare it?

Garlic scapes!

If you follow the blog you probably read the post about green garlic.  We also really like garlic scapes, and the great thing about garlic scapes is that they are seasonal and they only come once a year!

Right now we are in garlic scape heaven.  We made garlic scape pesto last weekend & have been putting it on everything this week (eggs, salmon, rice, greens, bread, pizza).

To start with, what is a ‘garlic scape?’  Great question.  The scape is part of the photo (6)plant.  In the photo to the right, the scape is the white part with the little bump in it.  The friendly wikipedia page says that the scape “generally refers to a long internode forming the basal part or the whole of a peduncle. Typically it takes the form of a long, leafless flowering stem rising directly from a bulbrhizome, or similar subterranean or underwater structure.”  In my own words, the scape shoots out from the top of the plant (right around now).  The scape actually contains the seeds of the garlic plant & the flower!  If you do not cut the scape off, the plant would bloom and eventually little baby garlic plants would spread all over the place.  However, if you do cut the scapes off, you get an extra boost of energy going into your garlic bulbs (instead of into the flower)!  Just in case you didn’t know, the garlic bulb grows under the ground at the base of the plant.

photo (5)Enough of that! So, what to do with the scapes? As I mentioned already, we have been cooking them in everything.  The good news is that the scapes keep for a while in the fridge after they have been harvested.

Most of the ways you can use a scape are the same as how you can use the green garlic I wrote about a few weeks ago.  Easiest thing to do: make the scapes into a pesto.  Then put the pesto on everything

There are many pesto recipes out there.  A basic one: use a food processor to blitz some garlic scapes (rinsed), olive oil, & add salt & pepper to taste.  That’s it.  Super simple. We made a nice sized batch (1/2 pint) with about 10 scapes in it.  Then put it in a glass jar and it is now in our fridge.  Have we mentioned we’ve been putting it on everything?

Some great uses of the pesto include sautéing with greens and eggs; pan frying salmon with pesto; or using the pesto on pasta or pizza.  We have cooked with all of these methods in the past few days.

Other ideas for using the scapes.  When I asked on Facebook, I was told that scapes are good in soup stock, grilled, or chopped up mixed with olive oil and used as a dip for bread.

How do you use your garlic scapes?  

Green Garlic??

This week’s summer market related post is about Green Garlic.

Yes, Green Garlic!
This is not something I have ever seen in a grocery store- but I’m sure it is sold somewhere…

At the farmer’s market this week – look for green garlic!

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Ok, so what is this? It looks a bit like scallions or green onions.  Actually it is 100% not that!
Green Garlic – is actually the garlic plant harvested early.

You can actually eat almost all of the plant.  We cut the roots off and then chop the bottom white part up through the beginning of the green leaves and treat it almost like garlic or scallions.  So, we’ll toss it in a stir-fry but we’ll also eat it raw on a salad.  The green leafy parts can be used to add flavor to a stock or soup.

This week we’ve been eating our green garlic in a variety of dishes.  I’ve had it in salad (lettuce, green garlic, cilantro & oil/vinegar) and also in burgers.  When we make burgers we add minced garlic – so, instead of mincing garlic – I just chop up some green garlic & throw it into the burger mix!

The flavor of green garlic, for me, is a very light garlic-y taste.  I find it to be very refreshing – vs a raw garlic taste which can be overpowering!

So, go ask your local farmer for some green garlic!

Braising greens – what is that?

I was excited to see this morning that one of our favorite farmers (Kris & Adriane of River to River Farm in Tunnel Hill, IL) will be bringing brazing greens to the market.  In their blog they specifically mention that they are bringing a “Brazing Mix (A Mixture of 7 different varieties of Kale and Collards).”

So, what is that? What to do with it?

As many of you know, we love cooking.  We actually cook with kale and collards regularly. Here’s what we do with them.  We sauté them.  That’s it.  Sauté.

Typically this means I start by washing the greens, separating the leaves from the stalks, and loosely chopping the greens.  Meanwhile I have some oil heating in a cast iron pan (low-medium heat).  We typically use olive, but have also braised with coconut oil or canola.

To just straight up braise greens – you just toss them in the heated oil.  Let them wilt while you stir them around some.

We rarely just do straight greens.  Usually, we chop up an onion (this is added & sautéd before the greens go in), add garlic, add lemon juice, add chili powder — or a combination of these.

Serving size wise – this really depends on how many people you have & how large your greens are.  It if is just me, I’ll do 2-3 leaves of collards, 4-6 leaves of kale (lacinato is usually smaller than most — red russian is our favorite).  For more people – add more leaves!  When my partner cooks greens she cooks three times as many for just the two of us (and never have leftovers!).  If we get a bunch of kale from the farmers’ market it is usually good for 1-2 meals.

Different varieties of greens: kale (all kinds), collards, chard, dandelion greens, beet greens, spinach, turnip greens… the list goes on!

Before the photos — just some info about greens.  Many greens can be harvested and served year round.  Some varieties can over-winter (kale is sweeter after the first frost).  You can eat them pretty much whenever.  Often the flavor will change when they bolt (or start producing seed) in the spring if you overwintered them.  Greens add fiber, protein, vitamins (especially Vitamin A) and nutrients to your diet.  Here are the nutritional facts about beet greens (yes, boiled, drained, unsalted, but still greens).  For us, they are a pretty important part of my diet.  I like to eat greens at least three times per week (partner would eat them at every meal if she had her druthers).

Here are some photos of what we’ve done:

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Garlic in kale

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Red onion in beet greensImage

Rainbow swiss chard on the cutting boardImageA finished meal – asparagus, dandelion greens, salmon sweet potato cake, and a cannelli bean tuna salad.

So – those are some of our tricks & favorites.  Let us know how you braise greens & any favorite recipes/tricks you do!  Go get your greens!