Sunday, May 26

Baking Adventures: Trisha Yearwood's Banana Bread

It appears that my family is always well stocked on bananas. It works out well that two of us like bananas, what we like to call 'fresh from the monkey'...just perfectly yellow without any blemishes, and the other three like them slightly past ripe, with lots of spots. However, it's inevitable that some of the bananas don't get plucked in time, so we somehow end up with a surplus of over-riped bananas in the freezer. We have a bunch of family coming into town  in a week, so I wanted to go ahead and bake some easy breakfast items that can be tucked away in the freezer and popped out when they arrive! 
Family coming into town + a half dozen bananas in the freezer = banana bread!

From Trisha Yearwood's Georgia Cooking in an Oklahoma Kitchen 

3/4 c. unsalted butter
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 large eggs
4 ripe bananas, mashed
1 t. vanilla
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
1/2 c. buttermilk
1 c. chopped pecans (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease 2 loaf pans.

With an electric mixer or stand alone mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy.

 Add eggs one at a time. Beat in the bananas and vanilla. 

Sift flour together with baking soda and salt and add to the mixture, alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour. Fold in nuts if desired.

Pour the batter into the loaf pans and bake for 50 minutes. Cool slightly in the pan before turning the loaves out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
**I added 1/2 t. of banana flavoring to the mixture, about 1 tsp of cinnamon and divided them into 4-mini loaf pans and 1-regular loaf pans, and baked for about 42 minutes until lightly golden brown

Bon Appetite !

Saturday, May 25

Organic Lifestyle: Homemade Croutons

Having a clean and organic lifestyle is not just about eating carrot sticks and celery; you can enjoy many of the things you usually enjoy, just in a cleaner and healthier way. It's more time, but making things yourself is rewarding and you know exactly what is in your food! It may seem overwhelming to start thinking about everything being homemade, but start small. Look at things you use a lot, simple things like croutons and salad dressings; start there and work your way to bigger things like bread and cereals.

Today I had leftover cibatta bread that was getting a bit too crunchy, so I decided to make some fresh homemade croutons. They're so simple!
I simply cut up the cibatta bread into chunks and loaded them up in a big bowl.

Next, I drizzled about 3 Tablespoons of oil oil the bread chunks and seasoned them with coarse salt and granulated garlic and tossed them up until all were slightly coated.

Finally, I placed them in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes. Then I lifted the rack to the top tier, put in the broiler on high and let them sit for about 3 minutes until the tops were golden brown and yummy!
Store in an air-tight container and enjoy on salads for the next week or so :)

Saturday, May 18

A Cupper + A Cake: Strawberry Almond Scones

I love a good cup of tea. Earl Gray. Dejareeling. Ginger Peach. There's nothing like a good cupper on a rainy day to get the creative juices flowing. But sometimes a cupper just isn't enough, sometimes you need a great little companion to go with that steaming cup of your favorite blend: a fresh, homemade scone. One of my favorite summer time scones are fresh strawberry with a dollop of lemon curd on the side. Yum! This afternoon I tried a new recipe for strawberry almond scones, originally from Krissy's Creations, I found the recipe on Pinterest and wanted to give it a whirl.

Strawberry Almond Scones

2 c. All Purpose Flour
1 Tbsp. Baking Powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp. Sugar
5 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter (cold)
3/4 c. Milk
1/4 c. Heavy Cream
3/4 c. Fresh Strawberries, Hulled and Chopped into small pieces
1/4 c. sliced almonds
2 Tbsp. Strawberry Preserves
1 tsp. lemon juice

**I didn't use preserves as I didn't want the batter to get too moist
**I add another tbsp of sugar to the mixture
**I added about 1/2 tsp almond flavoring + 1/2 tsp vanilla flavoring

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line 1 baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone mat.

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Cut the butter into 1/4-inch squares, and add it to the flour mixture. Using your hands, or a fork, break up the butter until the butter pieces are no bigger than small peas, the mixture is crumbly. 

Make a well in the center of the mixture and pour in the milk and heavy cream. Using a spatula, fold the mixture until the liquid is fully incorporated into the flour mixture.  Add the fresh strawberries, sliced almonds, strawberry jelly, and lemon juice.  Using your hands or a spatula, carefully fold the mixture to incorporate all of the ingredients into the dough.  I like to use my hands so I can be extra gentle with the mixture and to make sure all the strawberries aren’t squished.  Don’t worry if the strawberries slightly bleed into the dough, this is inevitable because of the strawberries juices.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface.  Lightly coat all sides of the dough with flour.  With your hands, carefully press the dough into a ¼-inch thick rectangle.  Try to press it out until it is about 10 by 5 inches.  Using a 2-inch round biscuit cutter, cut rounds of dough and then transfer each round to the prepared baking sheet.

Bake until the scones turn a light golden brown, about 20 minutes.  Transfer the scones to a cooling rack to cool until warm.  Serve and enjoy!

Friday, May 17

Baking Adventures: Strawberry Season

May is my favorite month, and not just because it's my birthday month (although that is always fun), but for many reasons: first real month of warmth, fresh scents of peonies and hydrangea in the garden, crisp morning runs...and strawberries! Yes folks, it's strawberry season here and that means it's time to hit my favorite local farm Bernie's Berries and pick some fresh, ripe, juicy strawberries!

After an early morning visit to the farm, I have begun to start a baking adventure for the weekend. On the agenda: homemade strawberry rhubarb pie, homemade strawberry almond scones and maybe strawberry shortcakes! 

May Baking: Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

The joy of spring is quickly associated with baking for me. I remember growing up as a child, spending countless hours kneeling on a chair next to my grandmother sifting flour, kneading dough, and measuring sugar. There are a handful of desserts that distinctly remind me of my grandmother, but one of our family's favorites is strawberry rhubarb pie. Picking fresh berries and making a homemade Strawberry Rhubarb pie is a tradition mom and I have created over the past ten years (this is also her favorite pie; the only pie she eats a la mode too!) So this morning I decided to make a homemade pie for dessert tonight.

First, obviously, you must start with the basics: the crust. I tried a new recipe this year courtousy of Sandra Bullock's sister

Pie Crust 
2 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp sugar
2 sticks cold butter
Combine the ingredients in a food processor until it becomes blended and resembles coarse corn meal
Then slowly add a water & lemon juice mixture 
**I did 1/4 cup water with about 2 tbsp of lemon juice

 Carefully take the dough mixture out of the food processor and place directly into a lightly greased pie pan. I then worked out the dough with my fingers to form around the edges and the pan was completely covered. 

Next I placed it into a 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes until the crust set slightly and set aside to cool.

While that cooled I started on the actual Strawberry Rhubarb Pie :) I believe that it originally came from Grandma's Strawberry Rhubarb Pie recipe on FoodTV

2 1/2 cups chopped red rhubarb, fresh

2 1/2 cups de-stemmed, washed and cut strawberries (in larger pieces)
1 1/2 cups sugar (1 1/4 cups for high altitude)
2 tablespoons minute tapioca
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons butter, cubed small
1 egg white beaten with 1 teaspoon water
Large granule sugar
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

 Wash the fresh strawberries, de-stem and let them dry off on a cookie sheet

Mix the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar, tapioca, flour, zest and juice of lemon, dash of cinnamon, and vanilla. Mix well in a large bowl and pour out into chilled crust. 

Brush edges of pie crust with egg white wash. Roll out the other piece of dough and place over filling. Crimp to seal edges. Brush with egg white wash and garnish with large granule sugar. 

Collar with foil and bake at 425 degrees F for 15 minutes. Decrease temperature to 375 degrees F and bake for an additional 45 to 50 minutes, or until the filling starts bubbling.

 Let cool COMPLETELY before serving.