19 December 2011

Date + Pecan Banana Bread

I'm experiencing writer's block... so, of course, I turn to my husband and ask, "What should I say about this date and pecan banana bread?" Doug's reply: "Great in the morning with a cup of coffee." LOL! Seriously? Yes, this is great in the morning with a cup of coffee. Just wake up one hour before your family and friends and whip this together. No big deal! Right?!! Well, I will add to his profound statement and say that it is a nice twist to ordinary banana bread. Also, it would make a wonderful holiday treat for your neighbors!

Date & Pecan Banana Bread
(From W&S Bride & Groom, thanks to Dad D.)
Yield: 1 large loaf or 2 smaller loaves

1 3/4 C. Flour
2 1/4 tsp. Baking Powder
3/4 tsp. Kosher Salt
1/3 C. Butter, room temperature
2/3 C. Sugar
1 tsp. Grated Lemon Zest
2 Large Eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/4 C. Ripe Banana (about 2), mashed (very ripe)
1/2 C. Pecans, chopped
1/2 C. Dates, chopped

Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Grease an 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-inch loaf pan with butter (I like to make it in two smaller loaf pans). Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together into a medium bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, use a wooden spoon to beat the butter with the sugar and lemon zest until soft and creamy. Add one-third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir until fully incorporated. Repeat, adding the remaining flour mixture in 2 more batches. Mix in the eggs and add the mashed banana until well blended. Gently fold in the pecans and dates. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top. Bake until a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean (about 1 hour). Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan on a wire rack. Turn out onto a plate and serve at room temperature.

11 December 2011

Lemon Asparagus Risotto

I have been experimenting with different kinds of risotto lately. Remember the butternut squash risotto? That is definitely a recipe that you will need to try this time of year. I was elated when I saw a healthy bunch of asparagus at Whole Foods yesterday and just knew that it would end up in a risotto side dish. I served this with some herb-crusted Frenched lamb chops and a spinach salad. What a nice Sunday evening dinner with my hubby!

Lemon Asparagus Risotto
(Adapted from Food Lover)
Yield: 4 to 6 Servings

1 Bunch Asparagus, tough ends removed, cut into 1'' bites
4 Tbsp. Butter
3 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 Medium Onion, diced
1 Tbsp. Salt, more or less to taste
2 1/4 C. Arborio Rice
5 C. Chicken or Vegetable Stock
1/4 C. Lemon Juice
3 Tbsp. Lemon Zest
1/2 C. Parmesan Cheese, plus more for garnish

In a medium pot, bring about 4 cups salted water to a boil. Add the asparagus and bring back to a boil; cook 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the asparagus from the water and submerge into ice cold water to stop the cooking. Remove, drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a small sauce pan, bring the chicken or vegetable stock to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. In a sauté pan over medium heat (I used a medium Le Creuset pan), melt half the butter and olive oil. Add the onions and 1/2 teaspoon salt; sauté for 3 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat each kernel with some fat. Add the remaining salt and toast the rice for about 3 minutes. One ladle at a time, add the stock. Over medium-low heat, gently stir the stock into the rice. Once the rice has absorbed the stock, add another ladle. Continue the process for about 15 minutes. After the rice is al dente, add the sliced asparagus to the rice mixture. Finally, turn off the heat and add the lemon zest, lemon juice and Parmesan; gently stir.

08 December 2011

Mint Chocolate Cookies

Are you ready for this??? My first Christmas Cookie post of the season! I got this recipe out of a Junior League cookbook - and I happen to be on the committee, so feel free to purchase your copies here!! For my family members who read my blog: don't worry - you'll probably be getting this for Christmas. I normally love League recipes, but this one does not even compare to my Mint Chip Cookies. These turned out to be more like butter cookies with a chocolate center. I prefer full on chocolate, minty goodness. I'll leave it to you to decide which recipe you like better!

To my sister: Thanks for the cute cocktail napkins :) Love them!

Mint Chocolate Cookies
(JLC Cookbook)
Yield: 3 dozen

1 C. (2 sticks) Unsalted Butter, softened
1/2 C. Confectioners' Sugar
2 C. Cake Flour
1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1/8 tsp. Salt
1 C. Pecans, finely chopped
18 Frango Mint Chocolates (or Andes), cut into halves
Confectioners' Sugar (for sprinkling)

Cream the butter and 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar in a bowl for 1 minute or until light and fluffy. Add the flour, vanilla and salt; stir with a wooden spoon until combined. Stir in the pecans. Chill, loosely covered with plastic wrap, for 1 hour or until the dough is firm. Shape 1 Tbsp. dough around each chocolate half, forming a ball. Place 1 inch apart on two nonstick cookie sheets. Bake one cookie sheet on the top rack and one on the center rack in a preheated 350F degree oven for 10 minutes. Switch the cookie sheets. Bake for another 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Sift confectioners' sugar generously over the cookies. Cool on a wire rack.

03 December 2011

Mom's Stuffing

I just wanted you to see the magnificent stuffing that we had on our Thanksgiving table. ;) I'm not giving the recipe because it is a "watch and learn" sort of thing... no specific measurements. Thanks for teaching me how to make it this year, Mom!

Hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. That is the last of my turkey day pics!

02 December 2011

Gingersnap Pumpkin Pie

My dad said that this was the best pumpkin pie he has ever had! Wow! What a compliment! This was my first time making a pumpkin pie in a gingersnap crust. I wasn't worried though... because when you deal with good ingredients and flavors, it is bound to work in your favor! I combined multiple different recipes and came up with the one below. Enjoy!

Gingersnap Pumpkin Pie
Yield: 8 Servings

Gingersnap Crust

2 C. Gingersnap Cookie Crumbs
1/2 C. Walnuts or Pecans, finely chopped
1/8 tsp. Salt
5 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter, melted

Preheat oven to 325F degrees. Place a rack in the center of the oven. Combine cookie crumbs, walnuts and salt. Stir in butter and transfer to a pie pan. Press crumb mixture firmly and evenly into bottom and sides of pan. Bake for 10 minutes; transfer to a cooling rack.

Pumpkin Pie Filling

2 Large Eggs
3/4 C. Light Brown Sugar, packed
1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
1/2 tsp. Salt
2 tsp. Pumpkin Pie Spice
1 (15 oz) Can Solid-Pack Pumpkin
1 C. Half-and-Half

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, brown sugar, vanilla, salt, pumpkin pie spice and pumpkin. Whisk in half-and-half. Pour mixture into cooled pie crust. Bake at 350F degrees until set (about 1 hour). Cool on rack at room temperature for one hour, then refrigerate to cool completely.

Note: When refrigerating pie, cover first with a paper bowl, then plastic wrap. The towel absorbs moisture and keeps the surface free of droplets.

Brandy Whipped Cream

1 C. Heavy Cream
1 Tbsp. Powdered Sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp. Brandy

In a bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the cream until thick and frothy. While beating, add the sugar and brandy. Beat until soft peaks form.

01 December 2011

Cranberry, Fig + Pistachio Chutney

Hubby MD is still at the hospital, so I figured that now is a good time to blog about some of our turkey day recipes! Thank goodness my dad had the patience to prep all of the ingredients that went into this chutney. It sure took him a long time! Or... wait... maybe he was just enjoying his prep station that we set up for him at the table (facing the football game and cold beer in hand). That's how you cook on Thanksgiving though, right?? Can't get much better than that! This was a delicious new addition to our Thanksgiving spread. I wanted to put the recipe on here so that we can refer to it next year!

And here is what it looked liked before it hit the stove:

Cranberry, Fig and Pistachio Chutney
(Mom's recipe)
Yield: 4 Cups

2 Tbsp. Fresh Ginger, peeled and minced
2 lbs. Fresh Cranberries
2 Small Oranges, washed & diced (skin on, seeds removed)
20 Dried Figs, tough stems removed, diced
2 C. Shelled Pistachios
1 Large Yellow Onion, diced
3 C. Granulated Sugar
1/2-1 tsp. Cayenne Pepper (depending on taste)
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Put all of the ingredients (except the salt and pepper) into a large pot and stir well. Place the pot on the stove over medium-low heat. The cranberries will start to breakdown and burst. Once the bubbles begin to form, simmer the chutney uncovered for an hour. Stir every few minutes so that the sugars don't caramelize on the bottom of the pan. After an hour, taste the chutney and add salt and pepper to taste.

Note: The finished chutney will be nice and jammy. Let it cool before serving. It can be refrigerated for up to two weeks. It is delicious on post-holiday sandwiches too!