Aunt Buzz’s Banana Bread, Again

Most folk know that our friend Barb’s Aunt Beezy has the best soda bread recipe.

And that is totally cool because:

1: I have the recipe (thanks, Barb!) and…

2: my own Aunt Buzz (no relation to Aunt Beezy, except for the fact that they were, obviously, wicked cool aunts) had probably the absolute best banana bread recipe.

And so, here it is…

One note: my Aunt Buzz loved entertaining and feeding folk, but kinda hated to cook, so I am a bit surprised that she went with a recipe that called for “sifting the flour, salt, baking powder, and soda three times.” One great advantage to considering a mid (last) century recipe today is that, a good wire whisking of the flour, salt, baking powder, and soda will do much the same thing as sifting, with a lot less muss and fuss.

INGREDIENTS
•3 ripe bananas
•1/4 cup chopped walnuts*
•1/4 cup butter, softened
•1/2 cup sugar
•1/2 cup milk
•2 eggs
•2 cups flour
•2 tsp baking powder
•1/2 tsp baking soda
•1/2 tsp salt

*If you can find them, black walnuts are awesome in this bread.

Heat your oven to 350º and apply cooking spray to a bread pan.

Cream the butter together with the sugar in a large mixing bowl and set aside.

Add the eggs, beating into the butter mixture after each addition, then add the peeled bananas and mix until smooth.

Beat in the milk and flour mixture, then stir in the nuts.

Transfer the batter to your prepared bread pan, then pop into the hot oven and bake for about one hour, until a toothpick or wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and set aside to cool for 15 minutes or so before turning the pan over and popping the bread out.

Enjoy.

This really is the best banana bread recipe I have found, but, no doubt much to my Aunt Buzz’s horror, I am considering “gorping it up” as she was wont to accuse me of, by adding a bit of allspice and mebbe some ground cloves and cinnamon to the next time I make it.

Go ahead and enjoy a slice or three with butter, plain cream cheese, or, one of my fave combinations (tho’ my husband gives me strange looks when I do it), a schmear of Jalapeño Cream Cheese Spread.

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Jalapeño Cheese Spread

It is hard not to love a schmear of cream cheese on a bagel, but, for me, anyway, even harder to pass up a schmear of jalapeño cream cheese spread on a bagel.

Folk who’ve been paying attention will note that this is the same spread I used for those tasty bacon wrapped pickle poppers. I just felt that it deserved its very own post, and, besides, it is, obviously, good for so very much more than pickles.

Like bagels. Or mebbe stuff some figs.

Or…

well, I’ll get to that. First, the details!

INGREDIENTS
•1 container (7.5 oz) whipped cream cheese with jalapeño
•1/2 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese
•1 tsp dried chives
•1 tsp Cajun Power Spicy Garlic Pepper Sauce – or your fave hot sauce, to taste

Note: I’ve had some problems ordering on line, but the very nice folk at Cajun Power will happily assist you the old fashioned way, over the phone.

Add the cheeses, chives, and hot sauce to a mixing bowl and allow to come to room temperature – mebbe 30 minutes.

Using a hand held mixer, whip together until nicely blended.

Stash in a covered jar in the fridge for a few hours to allow the flavors to blend.

Nice, zippy cheese spread!

And, yeh, it is fine in those pickles, and on that bagel, and even stuffed into figs; but, consider this…

banana bread!

Yeppers. Sweet bread and spicy cheese and oh! so good all over!

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A Tale of Two Pizzas

On our last trip to Trader Joe’s, we noticed a new product featured just inside the entrance; flatbread-like pizza crust, made, baked, and ready to be topped, popped into an oven or on the grill, and served.

So… as one does at Trader Joe’s, we bought a two pack, along with some of their jarred pizza sauce, and decided to give it a try.

I am now officially hooked! These were terrific on the grill, topped with basil from the garden (my front porch) and stuff…

Which gets us to the whole “two pizzas” bit.

See, one of the pizza pieces made more than enough for dinner; but the size and shape kinda made it hard for me to stash the second in the freezer for later use, so we had pizza two nights in a row.

I just switched things up a bit.

The first night, I kept things traditional, with pizza sauce, shredded cheese (Trader Joe’s blend of Parmesan, Asiago, Fontina, and Provolone – nice!), pepperoni, black olives, and some chopped fresh basil from the garden (my front porch).

Brush a bit of oil (I used avocado oil, but olive oil works a treat here, too) on both sides of the crust, then top and bake or grill according to the instructions on the back of the bag.

Note: Rich grilled ours, and we thought the grilling times given were off, so plan accordingly. Still a wicked tasty pizza!

The next night, that second piece of dough was nagging at me, and, much as we do love a pepperoni and black olive pizza, I thought I would try a little sumpin’ sumpin’ different; like…

A BBLT pizza!

Yeppers; bacon, basil, lettuce and tomato; with Medianoche Mayonnaise in place of tomato sauce.

Brush both sides of the dough with oil, then brush the top with the Medianoche Mayonnaise.

Note: Medianoche Mayonnaise is my take on a zippy Cuban-style spread. To make your own, combine one cup of mayonnaise with 1/4 cup of Italian dressing (try this blend) and one tablespoon of your fave hot sauce until well blended. Stash in a covered jar in the fridge until needed.

You’re gonna need it a lot, just saying.

OK, so, crust brushed will oil and Cuban mayonnaise, top with cooked and crumbled bacon, thinly sliced sweet onion, chopped fresh basil leaves, quartered grape tomatoes, and cheese – I used more of that tasty Trader Joe’s blend.

Pop into the oven or onto the grill and cook until done.

“Wait!” you say.

“Where’s the lettuce?” you ask.

Yeh. You do not want to go grilling shredded lettuce – though grilled Romaine is quite nice – just cut it in half, rub the cut side with olive oil and lemon juice, and grill.

So… Bacon, basil, and tomato pizza nicely grilled (or baked, baking works too), slice your pizza and serve with freshly shredded lettuce on top.

Mebbe my new favorite.

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Marinated Asparagus

This, is an amazingly simple, but totally tasty recipe.

Serve it as a munchie, a snack, a salad, or a side dish.

Add sliced onion, Feta or blue cheese, nuts, dried cherries, cubes of salami, it is really all very, very good!

I tossed a batch together for a dinner party, and friends were impressed, so I made another batch for lunch at friends and…

They all want the recipe.

INGREDIENTS
Veggies:
•Fresh asparagus, trimmed
•Shredded carrot
•Anything else you’d like to add
•1 tbsp Kosher salt
•2 tbsp sugar

Marinade:
•1 envelope Italian dressing mix*
•1/2 cup avocado or olive oil
•1/2 cup canola oil
•1/4 cup salad vinegar
•1/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar

*Note the ingredients in this dressing mix. It is made by a local company, and sold only at one store near me; but can be ordered on line here.

Wash the asparagus and cut about an inch off of the bottom of each spear. Don’t fall for that old “grab both ends and snap it” story – you’ll end up wasting a bunch of decent asparagus.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then stir in the salt and the sugar.

Add the asparagus, cover, and cook for two to three minutes, just until the asparagus is bright green and crisp tender.

Remove the asparagus from the pot and immediately plunge into a large bowl of ice water, moving the spears around a bit to insure they are all quickly cooled.

Leave the asparagus in the ice water for a few minutes, then transfer to a platter lined with a clean kitchen towel. Wrap the towel up and over the asparagus to cover, then stash in the fridge for a couple of hours.

Now’s a great time to make the dressing!

Add all the ingredients to a canning jar, cover tightly, then shake to combine well.

Note: you could, of course, use all avocado or olive oil when you make your dressing; but then, when you store it in the fridge, it will turn into a solid block that will need to be brought out well in advance of when you are planning to use it. Far better, I think, to split half and half with the canola oil, which will keep your dressing nicely liquid.

Asparagus chilled and dressing made, cut the asparagus spears in half, then toss with the carrots and whatever other veggies/etc. you feel like adding.

Add the dressing, toss to coat well, then stash in the fridge until needed.

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Beef and Pineapple Tacos

Yeh, so I know I’ve already lost some folk out there by putting pineapple and taco in the same headline; but, if you’re still here for this post, you really want to check this out.

Because it is GOOD!

Leftover roast beef is marinated with tamari and ginger and garlic, then sautéed and served in corn and chia tacos with lightly grilled (well, pan-fried) pineapple and a tasty rice vinegar coleslaw. What more do you need for a fine dinner?

I started with leftover slices of my weekend roast beast, cutting them into small chunks.

And the rest, as they say, is history…

INGREDIENTS
Marinade:
•1/4 cup pineapple juice
•3 tbsp lower sodium tamari
•1 tbsp Sherry peppers Sauce*
•1 tbsp grated ginger
•1 tbsp minced garlic

Tacos:
•Eye of Round Roast
•Diced sweet onion
•Sliced pineapple
Rice vinegar coleslaw
•White corn tortillas

*No Sherry Peppers Sauce? No Problem! Simply add a bit of decent sherry (none of that “cooking” stuff) and a dash or three of your fave hot sauce, to taste.

Cut your leftover roast into rough cubes, then place in a zipper bag.

Combine the marinade ingredients together in a beaker and give a good whizzz with your immersion blender. If you don’t have an immersion blender, a food processor or blender will work a treat.

Pour the marinade over the beef in the zipper bag and set aside to rest for 30 to 60 minutes, giving the bag a flip and a squeeze when you think to.

When ready to make the tacos, place a large skillet over medium heat.

Add the pineapple slices and cook for a couple of minutes per side, until you get a decent bit of char on both sides. Remove from the pan and keep warm.

Add the beef – with the marinade – to the pan and cook until heated through.

‘Wave the taco shells for 30 to 40 seconds, then assemble your tacos.

Place some of the rice vinegar coleslaw at the bottom of the taco shell, then top with the beef mixture, chopped pineapple slices, and the diced sweet onion.

Nice tacos!

We didn’t really think that they needed anything else, but you might could drizzle a bit of sweet chili sauce on top.

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A Nice Roast Beast

So, my dad loved him a roast beast on a Sunday; specifically an Eye of the Round roast beast, so, when a local market advertised them for a stooopid cheap price, I thought I might as well pick one up and roast it in memory of  “the Gen’ral” – as my sister and I called him.

First things first, and I am unanimous about this, my dad would not have cooked a roast this way, or left even a hint of pink in it. Nope, he liked his roast beef well and truly dead – and mebbe just a bit dry and flaky.

Still and all, this method made for a fine roast beast, and with little muss and or fuss.

INGREDIENTS
Rub:
•1 tbsp olive oil
•1 tbsp water
•1 tbsp smoked brown sugar
•1 tsp paprika
•1/2 tsp Kosher salt
•1/2 tsp Seasoned Salt
•1/2 tsp dried thyme
•6 or 7 roasted garlic cloves

Roast:
•3 lb Eye of Round Roast
•1 bay leaf

Add the rub ingredients to a blender jar or food processor and pulse until you have a thick paste.

Heat your oven to 500º.

Remove your roast from the fridge, brush with the rub on a foil lined baking pan, and set aside to rest for one hour.

Place the bay leaf on top of the roast, and pop into the oven, uncovered, for about 18 minutes – or six minute per pound.

This next bit is important…

Turn the oven off and leave the roast in the oven – still uncovered – for two to two and a half hours.

Do not open the oven during this time.

Remove the roast from the oven, slice, and serve as you will.

We enjoyed ours with a nice dab o’ horseradish sauce and an asparagus salad on the side.

Nice roast!

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A New Take on an Old Sauce

One of my all-time favorite sauces for steak, chops, lamb, burgers, other sammiches, you name it, is the barefoot contessa’s horseradish sauce.

It is wicked simple to toss together, uses no funky or hard to find ingredients, and is simply an all around good thing to have on hand in the fridge.

Except…

The original recipe makes rather more than

we, as a rule can go through before I come across a sadly old and slightly crusty jar at the back of one of the shelves in the fridge.

So…

While planning a roast beast dinner for friends, I took a look at the original recipe and started by cutting it down to an amount we can use up in a timely manner.

Then, I tasted, went back to the drawing board, and upped the horseradish (always a good move, if you ask me).

And. I think I like this better!

I mean, it is basically still the contessa’s recipe, but I’ve tweaked it for my own personal preferences.

I don’t think she’ll be too ticked at me.

INGREDIENTS
•1/2 cup mayonnaise
•1/4 cup prepared horseradish
•1 tbsp Zippy Mustard*
•1 tbsp sour cream
•1/2 tsp dried chives
•1/8 tsp Kosher salt

*If you don’t want to make your own Zippy Mustard (though, you really should – it is that good, and wicked simple to toss together), just use your fave Dijon or even brown mustard. Trader Joe’s Dijon is amazingly good, pretty darned inexpensive, and already has a bit of a horseradish-y bite, so, bonus!

Stir all of the ingredients together in a bowl, then transfer to a jar, cover, and stash in the fridge for at least a couple of hours to allow the flavors to blend.

Serve with steak, chops, roasts, really most any chunk o’ meat.

Infinitely superior to anything you’re gonna find at your local market.

Just sayin’

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Gazpacho!

What could be better on a hot, steamy August day than a refreshingly cold bowl of veggies?

By which I mean, of course, gazpacho!

Cucumbers, tomatoes, garlic, onion, sweet peppers, and basil; all tossed together and puréed just enough, then chilled in glass to make for a satisfyingly thick bowl of goodness that will make your day.

Garlic croutons or bread would’ve be nice…

but my friends I was lunching with can’t really do bread, so I abstained in solidarity with them.

I based this recipe on the barefoot contessa’s gazpacho, making a few changes to suit my tastes – such as adding fresh basil, using quite a lot of roasted garlic, and going with champagne vinegar instead of plain old white wine vinegar.

My lunch buddies were in agreement that a shot o’ nice vodka would not be a bad thing here, either.

INGREDIENTS
•4 Persian or mini cucumbers
•Fresh basil leaves (about 10)
•4 plum tomatoes
•10 cloves roasted garlic
•1 sweet red pepper
•1 sweet orange pepper
•1 red onion
23 oz lower sodium veggie juice
•1/4 cup champagne vinegar*
•1/4 cup olive or avocado oil
•1-1/2 tsp Kosher salt
•1 tsp black pepper
•1 tsp Aleppo pepper

*No champagne vinegar? No problem! Use any good white wine vinegar instead.

Making this soup could not be easier, and, even better on a hot summer’s day – there is no cooking involved!

Cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise, then scoop out the seeds (a 1/4 teaspoon measuring spoon works a treat for this).

Coarsely chop the cucumbers, then pulse in a food processor until thick and pulpy.

Or, as I did, use your immersion blender to make a kind of cucumber paste, then transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Seed the peppers and cut into smallish chunks, then either process or use the immersion blender and transfer to the mixing bowl.

Slice the ends off the tomatoes, cut into chunks, and process or blend along with the garlic and torn basil leaves before transferring to the mixing bowl.

Coarsely dice the onion, process or blend, then add to all the other veggies in the mixing bowl.

Our soup is almost done…

You now have a bowl of raw veggie paste; let us turn it into something wonderful.

Add the olive or avocado oil, the champagne vinegar, and the two cans of lower sodium veggie juice to the bowl, and stir, using the immersion blender.

Give it a taste.

Lovely, yes?

But, we will need a bit of seasoning, so, stir in the Kosher salt, black pepper, and the Aleppo pepper.

Note: no Aleppo pepper? No problem! Add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes instead.

Transfer your gazpacho to glass jars (I think glass chills stuff better than plastic) and stash in the fridge for at least a couple of hours to allow the flavors to blend.

I got about two quarts of primo cold soup.

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Cherry Lemonade Poke Cake

In parts of our group of friends, I am “the cake guy” – mostly because the moms don’t really bake.

For a certain subset of our group of friends, I am “the birthday cake guy” and so, I found myself creating this kinda tasty combination for an eleven year old’s birthday…

A strawberry cake, made in my (now) almost constant manner – one cake mix and 12 ounces of soda (nothing else), baked, then poked and drizzled with Jell-o.

Carter’s request was a repeat of one I’d made earlier in the summer; strawberry cake mix, Mexican (all sugar, no corn sweeteners) fruit punch soda, and cherry lemonade Jell-o.

Normally, a poke cake is spread with whipped topping, but I was halfway to my friend’s house when I realized that my whipped topping was still sitting in the fridge. *sigh*

Oh well, a quick stop at a market on the way, and all the kids had a lot of fun spraying the canned whipped cream onto their own, individual slices.

A note on the whipped topping: I’ve been using this truwhip, which is in the freezer case right next to all the other “whips” – but – note all the “nos” on the lid. I can go for no corn syrup, hydrogentated oils, and 0g trans fats.

My husband also cannot tell the difference between this and the alternative that does have all that stuff in it, so, win, win!

INGREDIENTS
Cake:
•1 Strawberry moist cake mix
•12 oz soda – NOT diet

Jell-o:
•3 oz cherry lemonade jell-o
•1 cup boiling water
•1/2 cup cold water

Topping:
•1 tub thawed frozen whipped topping
•Sprinkles

Apply cooking spray to a 13×9 baking pan and heat your oven to 350º.

Add the soda to the cake mix in a large bowl and beat on medium high for two minutes, until well and truly blended.

Transfer the mix to the prepared baking pan and bake according to instructions on the box – traditionally for this size, 30 minutes.

Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

While the cake is cooling, pour the boiling water into the Jell-o in a bowl and stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved – about two minutes.

Stir the cold water into the gelatin.

Poke holes about 1/2 inch apart all over the cooled cake – a meat fork works a treat here.

Pour the prepared gelatin evenly over the top of the cake, then cover and stash in the fridge for one hour.

Top the cake with the whipped topping (if you haven’t left it at home), then spread evenly over all. Cover and stash back in the fridge until needed.

Obviously, you do not need to use a strawberry cake, fruit punch soda, and cherry lemonade Jell-o. A white or yellow cake with orange soda or ginger ale would be nice here, and mebbe try pineapple Jell-o.

It really is all good.

Just before serving, top the cake with sprinkles…

because, why not?

It’s cake, and, as Julia Child once noted: “A party without a cake is just a meeting.”

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Jalapeño Cheese Stuffed Pickle Poppers

So, yeh, this happened.

And truly, it is wicked tasty!

And simple to toss together.

And really, who hasn’t considered cutting whole dill pickles in half, then scooping out the seeds and filling the hole with a jalapeño and hot sauce mixture before wrapping the pickle halves in bacon and baking.

I’ve made these twice in the past week.

For two different gatherings.

And they were quite the hit! Well, except for with Ruth. I totally forgot that Ruth does not care for pickles. Oh, well, I did have her fave crackers, and the wine was nice, and the dinner, if I do say so myself, was nice.

But, back to the pickles…

INGREDIENTS
•Dill pickles
•Sliced bacon*

Filling:
•1 container (7.5 oz) whipped cream cheese with jalapeño
•1/2 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese
•1 tsp dried chives
•1 tsp Cajun Power Spicy Garlic Pepper Sauce – or your fave hot sauce, to taste

*1, 12 oz package of bacon should be enough to make 16 poppers. I used Trader Joe’s uncured, dry rubbed bacon.

HINT: a thin, 1/4 tsp round metal measuring spoon worked a treat at scooping out the pickle seeds.

Note: can’t find jalapeño cream cheese at your market? Use whichever flavor you prefer and add your own jalapeños. Might I suggest these sweet and hot candied jalapeños?

First things first, make your cheese filling by combining those ingredients together in a bowl and mixing together until well blended.

Transfer to a covered container and stash in the fridge until needed.

Slice the pickles in half, then, using a spoon (that 1/4 teaspoon measure worked much better than a regular teaspoon, but use what you have), scoop out and discard the seeds.

Pat the pickle halves down with a paper towel, then set aside to dry out a bit.

Line a rimmed baking pan with foil, then insert a baking rack into the pan.

Note: you don’t have to use the baking rack, but cooking the pickles on it will give you more all around crispity bacon wrapped pickle poppers.

Baking rack or no, apply cooking spray to the baking pan and/or rack.

Using a small knife, spread the cheese filling in each pickle half to fill.

Wrap one strip of bacon around each pickle half in a spiral to cover. Arrange on the baking pan.

Note: you can fill and wrap the pickles ahead of time and stash ’em in a container in the fridge.

When you are ready to bake the pickles, heat your oven to 400º.

Arrange the pickles in your prepared baking pan and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the bacon is cooked.

Arrange your pickles on a platter and serve with ranch dressing.

Ermmm… if I might…

This homemade Buttermilk Ranch Dressing is dead simple to toss together, but very, very good.

Zippy cheese stuffed, bacon wrapped pickles. Who’d a thunk it?

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