Crispy Sweet Potato Fries

I love sweet potato fries. Especially when they are paired with a good dip and are actually crispy. I’ve had trouble making my sweet potato fries crispy in the past, though. Until I found this method, that is!

It’s really simple, but a couple extra steps and it makes all the difference!

You’ll need:

1 large sweet potato

2 TBL olive oil

2 TBL cornstarch

Oil for frying

Sea salt to taste

 

That’s it, so let’s get started!

Peel your sweet potato and cut into 1/2 fries.

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Then put 2 TBL cornstarch in a large bag along with the fries and shake, shake, shake till the fries are coated in the cornstarch.
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Next, put 2 TBL of olive oil in a bowl or on a cookie sheet and coat the fries in the oil as well.
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Preheat deep fryer or bring a large heavy pot of oil to 375 degrees. Once at temp, place fries in oil (carefully):
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After 7 minutes, they should look kinda like this:
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Quickly upon removing fries from oil, sprinkle with desired amount of sea salt and toss to coat evenly on a paper towel-lined platter.
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All done! Now wasn’t that easy? These were the best, crispest sweet potato fries I’ve ever had and I hope you enjoy them as well. I served mine with french dip sammies. I’ll be making the french dips again and blogging that super easy recipe soon. They were so delcious!
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Published in: on September 20, 2011 at 4:54 pm  Comments (1)  
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Jess’s Homemade Peanut Butter Cups

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Who doesn’t love a Reese’s peanut butter cup? Pretty much everyone enjoys peanut butter cups, and they are not that difficult to make at home! I’ve adapted this recipe to my tastes, and I think it is one everyone will enjoy…so let’s get started:

Jess’s Peanut Butter Cups

1 cup butter or margarine, melted   

2 cups vanilla wafer crumbs (graham crackers work, too)

2 cups confectioners’ sugar                    

1 cup peanut butter

1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

4 tablespoons peanut butter

In a medium bowl, mix together the butter or margarine, vanilla wafer crumbs, confectioners’ sugar, and 1 cup peanut butter until well blended. Press evenly into the bottom of an ungreased 9×13 inch pan.

In a metal bowl over simmering water, or in the microwave, melt the chocolate chips with the peanut butter, stirring occasionally until smooth. Spread over the prepared crust. Refrigerate for at least one hour before cutting into squares

OR if you want shaped peanut butter cups, make the filling and melt the chocolate as above, then spray some Pam into candy molds, silicone bakeware, or if you’re desperate, mini muffin tins. You can do this the easy way or the hard way…

Easy way: Put a tablespoon or so of filling in each cavity, smash down with your (clean) fingers until they are relatively flat, and pour chocolate over the filling to fill each cavity. Smooth chocolate with back of spoon if necessary. Put in the freezer for about 5 minutes to harden the chocolate, then unmold.

Hard way: Put a small amount of melted chocolate in the bottom of the cavity, and with a (clean) paintbrush, brush the chocolate up the sides of the mold. Put in freezer for a few minutes, then take the candy mold out of the freezer, fill cavities 2/3 full of peanut butter filling, pushing down as before. Then pour chocolate over the top of the filling to completely fill the mold. Smooth chocolate with back of spoon if necessary. Put in freezer for about 5 minutes, then unmold.

 

I find that these are really easy, always a hit at parties and bake sales, and pretty fun to make…so give homemade peanut butter cups a try! Also, I like a little crunch in my peanut butter cup, which makes the vanilla wafers perfect for this, but if you prefer a smoother peanut butter filling, simply substitute an equal amount of graham crackers for the vanilla wafers and you are good to go! Also, these refrigerate and freeze well, so don’t worry if you make too many! As you can see from the heart-shaped peanut butter cup above, these make a fabulous and easy Valentine’s Day Dessert or Treat for your Sweet!

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I’m FINALLY back to blogging, folks!

Sorry for the delay, but those who know me were aware that we were moving and I’m still trying to get settled. A few days after moving into our new home, we got our first houseguest, so life’s been crazy. I did want to check in and let you all know I haven’t forgotten about you and that I’ll be back to seriously blogging, soon. In the meantime, here’s a pic of a salad I made the other day…see how easy it is to make something look amazing? This is a bagged salad mix, sliced cucumbers, cheese, bacon bits, and tomatoes. An easy salad made to look “fancy” simply by taking a minute or two to arrange the ingredients in lines. It’s so orderly and appealing to the eye, but so simple…so try your hand at making something simple look fabulous this week!

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Published in: on January 13, 2010 at 6:57 pm  Comments (7)  
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How to make a brown gravy, Jessica-style!

I’m sure there a thousand “how to make homemade gravy” posts circling the web, but here’s mine. This is to make a clear-ish brown gravy from any kind of non-breaded meat, such as turkey, chicken, pork or beef roast, basically anything that makes juices while cooking. I should add that it’s really hard to take pictures in your lefthand while making something like gravy with your right, my apologies for the bad pictures. Also, everyone has a different opinion on what the right kind thickening agent to add to non-cream gravies should be. I use cornstarch. It’s cheap, has multiple uses in the kitchen, and produces a clear, properly thickened gravy without dampening the flavor of the juices used to produce the gravy. It works for me,  but if you use another method…now is not the time to start sending me hate-mail, k? *smile*

This gravy was made with the juices from a turkey breast. Some people strain the juices to get rid of any bits leftover from the pan…I don’t. If you want to, feel free, I’m just too lazy.

The juices in a skillet (one with sides is important for something liquid-y like gravy). There’s probably about a cup of juices here:
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Since this was a turkey gravy, I used chicken broth. You can use turkey broth, I just don’t keep turkey broth on hand, so I tend to go with chicken broth. If making a chicken gravy, go with chicken broth, for any other meat, use beef broth or a veggie broth. If you don’t have broth on hand, you can use boullion cubes and water to make your own, just follow pkg instructions. Here’s about 4 cups of broth (this is to make LOTS of gravy for something big like Thanksgiving dinner for a crowd:
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Pour the broth in the skillet with the juices, and turn skillet on medium heat:
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While that is heating, we’re going to make a cornstarch slurry. I don’t ever measure my cornstarch, but I put what I thought I’d use in a measuring cup so you could see how much I used. It was a little more than I really needed. The important thing to realize about cornstarch is that each container can have different amounts of thickening power. I’ve had cornstarch boxes that it only took a couple tablespoons to thicken a gravy or sauce and other boxes that it seemingly took 1/2 a box to get to the thickness that I want. You can start by using the instructions on the box of cornstarch for thickening sauces and gravy and work up to the thickness you actually want. I always end up using more cornstarch than the box calls for to get to the thickness that I want. Anyway, start with the cornstarch in a small cup or measuring vessel. I had a little less than 1/2 cup of cornstarch here:
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Next, get out a fork and use it to stir the mixture. It will be MEGA hard to stir at first, but have faith and keep trying. Unless you have been stirring for a while and it still looks like a flour-y mess, don’t add water. If it does look like that, you can add it a teaspoon at a time, stirring between each addition. Be sure to get to the bottom and stir until it stops giving you major resistance. If it begins to be as thin as water or milk, you’ve gone to far. Add more cornstarch and try to get it back to heavy cream-like thickness. Trust me on this one. If it’s too watery, you’ll end up having to make a second batch of cornstarch slurry, anyway, b/c it won’t thicken like you need it to:
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Next, get out a whisk, and stir the broth/juices. Now is the time to add any seasonings you wish to add. I usually do pepper, (no salt, b/c it’s going to be salty enough from the broth) garlic, onion powder, and parsley (For turkey gravy, I also add a touch,like an 1/8 tsp., of sage, rosemary, and thyme). I don’t measure and I really don’t even know what to tell you to use. Maybe try 1/2 tsp of each and see how it tastes, if you don’t like it, add more of what you think it needs, and taste again. You can play with the broth a lot b/c it’s not going to stick on you until you add a thickener, so take the opportunity to experiment a bit with flavors. If you absolutely must have a recipe, I’d try this one, subbing the cornstarch and water for the milk and flour. It’s about the only recipe I could find online that was simple and had measurements for the spices, sorry:
“5 cups turkey stock with pan drippings
1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of chicken soup
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup milk
1/3 cup all-purpose flour

Bring the turkey stock to a boil in a large saucepan. Stir in soup, and season with poultry seasoning, pepper, seasoned salt, and garlic powder. Reduce heat to low, and let simmer.
Warm the milk in the microwave, and whisk in the flour with a fork until there are no lumps. Return the gravy to a boil, and gradually stir in the milk mixture. Continue to cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute, or until thickened. Be careful not to let the bottom scorch. Serves 28.”

A whisk is important b/c it can get to the bottom of the pan and can break up any chunks if some should develop (they shouldn’t, by the way):
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Now is where it gets a bit trickier. This is the do-or-die moment of your gravy, so pay attention. Still on medium heat, your broth should be close to bubbling (if it’s boiling, reduce heat and wait until it has almost completely stopped bubbling-a few bubbles/simmer is okay, if you are a quick whisk-er, but for a first-time gravy-maker, I’d really suggest making sure it’s not bubbling at all at this point). With your whisk in one hand and the cornstarch slurry in the other, begin SLOWLY pouring the slurry into the pan and QUICKLY whisking it in. Pour slowly to make sure you have enough time to stir it in before it solidifies in annoying little chunks, and whisk quickly to avoid the same issue.
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If this is your first gravy, you might try just pouring half of the slurry in while whisking and bring it to a simmer/boil while whisking constantly to see if it is thick enough. If it’s not thick enough to please you, lower the temperature again (still whisking all the time, b/c now that the thickener has been added is when the gravy can stick if you’re not on top of things) and when it’s not bubbling so much, add the other half of the slurry the same way you did last time-slowly, while whisking quickly. Bring back to a boil (you can raise the temp a bit to achieve this faster if you are really good at whisking the whole time). The key to understanding cornstarch as a thickener is remembering two very important things. One, the cornstarch cannot be added without making it into a slurry first if you don’t want lumps. Two, it does not fully thicken until it reaches boiling point. So don’t freak out if it’s not thick enough when you first add it. If your heat is very high, it may begin to thicken immediately, but it still won’t reach its’ full potential until it boils. So be patient. If you reach a boil again, and it still isn’t thick enough, you can make another slurry and reduce the heat and repeat the above steps to get it to the thickness you want. Here’s what mine looked like after thickening-see how it now looks like it’s all the same color, essentially? That’s what a thickener does to the juices:
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And finally, here’s what my turkey dinner looked like:
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And one final hint: If you don’t whisk quickly enough and your cornstarch seizes up in little balls or “lumps”, you can stir in what you can, then just put it through a colander or sieve to get the lumps out and make a new slurry, reduce your heat this time, and try to thicken it again. It likely will remain somewhat thickened even if most of the slurry seized on you, but it may be a little thinner than you want after straining it.

Published in: on October 18, 2009 at 1:06 am  Comments (4)  
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How to make Homemade Biscuits and Sausage Gravy…Part One, Biscuits!

A friend on a forum I visit mentioned she’d like to know how to make homemade biscuits and gravy…and I had a lightbulb moment-I have no idea why I haven’t given y’all a tutorial on this before, b/c biscuits and gravy are one of my favorite things to make! So here it is, a pictorial on the making of biscuits and gravy from scratch:

First, I’d like to start by saying that there is no shame in using canned biscuits if you’re just not up for trying to make your own just yet…I grew up on canned biscuits and I still have a more than healthy obsession interest in biscuits and sausage gravy made at home-it won’t scar your children, I promise. In fact, this sausage gravy is one of the few things that I actually learned how to make from my mother, who was a wonderful cook that had an ungrateful daughter who remained entirely uninterested in learning to cook till well into adulthood. I know, I know, y’all thought I was always into cooking, right? Yeah, not so much. But I’ve learned to love it, and you can, too! This post will address the biscuit part of the recipe…
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BISCUITS:

The biscuit recipe I like to use most frequently is J.P.’s Big Daddy Biscuits. It’s not that I don’t use other recipes, but this was the first recipe that really helped me learn to make biscuits that couldn’t effectively be substituted for hockey pucks (and taste the most like Bob Evans-which are my favorite biscuits). I also like southern buttermilk biscuits, so you could go that direction, too. One day, I’ll learn to turn Big Daddy Biscuits into buttermilk biscuits, but for now it’s one or the other.

*I was making a double batch of Big Daddy Biscuits, so please know that if you make a single recipe instead, your dough ball and quantity will be much smaller than what you see in the pictures. Also, I used half butter, half shortening, but all of either is fine in this recipe, no worries.*

First, preheat your oven to 425 degrees, and cut your butter into small cubes if you are using butter. (If using shortening, skip the cubes.)
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Now, I sift my flour and other dry ingredients b/c I find it makes fluffier biscuits, but the whisk almost accomplishes the same thing (which is what the recipe calls for).
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Then you put the butter/shortening in the bowl with the flour. Now is the time to employ one of two methods:
1.Use your fingers to coat the butter/shortening in flour, then continue rubbing the butter pieces between your thumb and forefinger, breaking it into smaller and smaller pieces, covered in flour until the entire mixture becomes a coarse, crumbly mess with most crumbles being similar in size to one another.
or
2.Grab a pastry blender or fork, and use the utensil to do the same thing.

Whichever method you choose, remember to keep your palms of your hands out of the whole ordeal, b/c your fingers aren’t as warm as your palms, and you are trying to keep the butter from melting. This is a hugely important step, probably the most important, so make sure that you have a good crumbly mixture before continuing on with the recipe.

This is the mixture before you begin blending, note the whiteness and tinyness of the particles of flour in this photo:Photobucket

And here’s the mixture after you’ve worked the butter into the flour, see the larger, darker look to the crumbles in comparison with the first photo?
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Measure out your milk:
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Make a well in the center of your flour mixture, and pour in the milk:
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Mix it into a big blob-y mess. This batch was a little wetter than most, but I don’t mind this b/c I flour my counter well and it is ALWAYS better to have too-wet dough than too-dry dough. Remember that you will be adding flour to the dough while rolling it out, so err on the side of too-wet, k?
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Flour your counter (sprinkle flour on the counter so the dough doesn’t stick to it), plop the dough ball on the floured countertop, and sprinkle a teaspoon or two of flour on top of the dough and try to loosely work the dough into a ball. Try not to mess with the dough very much. Something I’ve learned about both bread and especially biscuits is that if the dough still feels cold and sort of wet (but not sticky), then you have reached your goal for having light and fluffy baked goods. Once you get too much flour worked in or the heat of your hands has warmed the fat in the dough, you’ve lost some of that luscious lift you so desperately want in heavenly baked goods, so less is more with biscuits, k?
Once you have it in a ball, LIGHTLY pat it out or LIGHTLY use a rolling pin to make the dough more flat. You are looking for the edges of the dough to be about 1/2 inch thick. You can use a ruler to check. Better to be too tall then too short on this:
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Now it gets easy. Just use a glass (preferably with sharp edges) or a biscuit cutter (I use the medium size in my set of 3) dipped in flour to cut the biscuits. Cut straight down-don’t twist, or they won’t rise as high in the oven. Try to leave very little-to-no space between the biscuits and plan your cuts carefully to get the most cuts out of the dough, b/c you will NOT be re-rolling the dough to make more! We’ll get to that in a second…
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But first, a tip on making non-floury tasting biscuits:
When I cut a biscuit and pick it up to put it in the pan, I turn it over to reveal the side that was on the bottom of the floured counter, and I use a pastry brush (or a silicone brush or even my fingers) to dust off as much of the loose flour as possible. I hate floury biscuits, and this fixes that issue.
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Okay, back to the re-rolling issue. Sure you CAN re-roll the extra dough out and cut more biscuits, but quite frankly, it’s not worth it-they will be 10x tougher than the first ones and you just won’t like them very much. In fact, I believed so emphatically in not re-rolling my dough, that previously I have been known to throw the remaining dough into the trash, seriously. However, I found a neat trick that while it doesn’t produce the most beautiful biscuits, doesn’t compromise the lift and flavor of the “second round” of biscuits. Instead of gathering all the leftover dough from your first cut of biscuits and re-rolling it out to cut the second round-just do this: Take the scraps and gently form them together to make a biscuit-shaped circle approximately the size of the other ones, and cut the edges with your biscuit cutter. No kneading, no re-rolling, just shaping together without much pressure. It is much more effective and you don’t have to throw out the dough. They will be a little misshapen and ugly, but they will still taste good!

Here’s my “reworked” biscuit:
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As with most of my baked goods, I use cast-iron for biscuits, but any old pan will do. Anything from a cake pan to a cookie sheet can be used-round or square it doesn’t matter. But if you want good rise on your biscuits (and you do, you really, really do), then you may wish to put them in the pan touching like I do. Some recipes tell you to put them 1 inch apart, and that’s fine, but just know that most restaurants that make those yummy, ultra-delicious, drool-worthy biscuits that you love (every place from McDonalds to Bob Evans) smushes their biscuits all together on the pan. So unless you really like a crisp outer edge on your biscuits, the touching-method is probably the one you want to use, no matter what the recipe calls for. Just a little hint from me to you.
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Then just put your biscuits in the oven for appropriate time (in this case about 11 minutes is just right for me-but my oven also runs a little hot, so just follow the recipe on this one), and soon you’ll have fluffy, hot, yummy biscuits coming out of your oven. I brush some melted butter (or just rub a stick of cold butter over the hot biscuits fresh out of the oven) over them while they are still hot, b/c it gives them a better color and flavor…and here’s what you get:
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Simple Spaghetti and Homemade Meatballs

So often I’m lazy and just make spaghetti, use canned sauce, and forgo the meat or mix in crumbled hamburger…we all do it, right? Other times if I’m in a hurry, I’ll purchase frozen meatballs and make spaghetti using those. But on very special days-when I’m feeling particularly loving and sweet…I go through the effort to make spaghetti with real homemade from-scratch meatballs. The heavens sing, the clouds part—well, okay I made that part up, but you might think that if you heard my husband talk about my homemade meatballs!

As with so many things, I don’t really have a recipe. I just make them using what I have and what sounds good, but I can give you a basic idea of what goes into them:
2 lbs of ground meat, usually 1 lb hamburger, 1 lb lamb or mild sausage
2 eggs
1 sleeve of crackers-crumbled to a semi-fine powder using a rolling pin and a Ziploc bag
Some Italian-Herb breadcrumbs (or whatever old bread I have on hand, crumbled to a fine powder)
Italian seasoning
Basil
Salt
Pepper
Onion powder (you can use real onions or deyhdrated onion flakes-we just don’t like onions much)
Garlic powder (or fresh garlic or minced garlic-depends on what I have on hand)
Just a touch of chili powder

Mix well, using your hands (it’s messy, but it doesn’t ruin the texture of the meat like a mixer does), and form into 1-2″ balls. (Sometimes I make small ones, other times I make larger ones-the only thing that matters is that all the meatballs in each batch are the same size as one another.)
Meatballs in pan

Heat a skillet over medium heat with olive oil in it (maybe 1 Tablespoon?) till the oil shimmers, but before it smokes. Once the oil and pan are hot, place the meatballs in the skillet, leaving space between each meatball so that it can cook evenly. Do it in batches if you need to. Your goal is NOT to cook the meatballs, but simply to get a pretty crust on them and give them a little flavor with the olive oil. Once a side is browned, turn the meatballs over and brown the other side-keep turning them over until there are no “exposed” sides that haven’t been browned. As soon as you have accomplished this goal, start putting the meatballs on a wire rack inside of a jelly roll/sheet pan. I use some old metal cooling racks inside my large sheet pan. Turn the oven to 350 to preheat. Do your next batch of meatballs in the skillet, adding olive oil if necessary.
Meatballs in oven

Once all the meatballs are on the wire racks inside the sheet pan, put them in the oven, and bake until they reach an internal temperature of 155. Should take between 20 and 30 minutes. The key to making yummy meatballs is the baking. You can forgo the skillet browning if you like and just bake them, that works too (and is less labor intensive, I might add), but I like to brown them all around so I don’t have to turn them in the oven. This method (using the wire racks inside the sheet pan) allows for the fat to drain off of the meatballs, leaving you with non-greasy meatballs that are ready to be eaten plain or thrown into a sauce without becoming mushy like many restaurant meatballs are when they cook them in the sauce.

I just use regular or whole wheat spaghetti noodles and Hunt’s Spaghetti Sauce (you can get a large can for a $1 on sale) that I’ve added my own spices to. Oh, and sometimes I add some canned sliced mushrooms, too-depends on my mood!
Spaghetti and Meatballs Close-up

How to bake bacon like the pros!

Bacon-fully cooked

Okay, after much searching and trying different methods, I’ve decided that when dealing with nice, thick-cut bacon, the best option for cooking includes the oven.  Sure I can cook it on the stove top like everyone else, but inevitably I’ll end up with one or two “batches” that are overdone, it takes forever, b/c few pans have the size to make the whole pound at once, and I have to deal with splatters and burns if I’m not careful.

In our house, it’s an ironic twist that I can make bacon in a pan, and dh can make bacon in the microwave, but neither one of us can properly cook bacon using the other’s method. I just can’t microwave bacon properly to save my soul, and dh would burn the house down trying to make bacon the old-fashioned way.

Amazingly, though, I think anyone could make bacon in the oven, if the slices are thick enough. I’ve tried it with thin-sliced bacon and it’s a lot harder to get cooked evenly, so that’s why I recommend baking for the thick-cuts.  Another absolutely fabulous thing about baking your bacon is that you can bake it while you are making pancakes, eggs, and hash browns, too! It’s great for those holiday breakfasts or mornings where you don’t want to spend all morning slaving over a hot stove-like when you have guests in town! And if you are totally tired of watching your beautiful bacon strips shrivel into niblets of nothingness and a whole lotta grease, then this is definitely the method for you. Because of the slow-cooking method, you don’t lose nearly as much of the bacon to grease, which leaves you with more luscious bacon-y goodness on your plate!

So, without further ado, let’s get to bakin’ some bacon!

Start with a thick-cut bacon, I prefer applewood smoked bacon for it’s subtle apple flavor. It goes great with most breakfast applications, and adds a little something to appetizers and dinners utilizing bacon!
Thick-Cut Applewood Bacon

Next, you need to prep your pan for the bacon. In this case, I’m using my largest jelly roll pan/cookie sheet with sides. I’ve chosen to cover it with foil, b/c doing so makes cleanup fast and easy. All you do is pour the bacon grease into a can or jar (for use later in green beans or other vegetables to add flavor) from the corner of the pan, slip off the cooled foil into the trash, and throw the pan in the dishwasher-no muss, no fuss.
Pan for Bacon

Second, you are going to place the bacon in the pan, lining it up as close as possible to the next slice-without letting the pieces overlap, as that would make for uneven browning.
Bacon ready for oven
The next step is simple: Put the pan of bacon in the COLD oven (no preheating, here, folks-another time saver), and turn the oven on to 400 degrees. “Walk away, just walk away” in the immortal words of our favorite chef, Alton Brown. Okay, you can set your timer for 16 minutes, just to check it, but then walk away. The bacon, depending on thickness, should take anywhere from 17 to 20 minutes…possibly longer for super thick cuts, but 20 usually does it. If you are trying this with thin bacon (despite my loving warnings), then you want to start checking it at 10 minutes, just in case.
Baked Bacon
This is approximately what your bacon should look like when it is finished baking. I like to drain my bacon, so I just throw it on a paper-towel lined plate, and serve. If it’s for company, it might make it to a pretty platter, but really, bacon doesn’t need fancy dishes-bacon rocks all by itself!
Bacon-fully cooked
So the next time you burn a batch of bacon or need to make bacon, but just don’t have time to stand there flipping it, try this method of bakin’ your bacon, and I’ll bet you’ll be impressed with the results!

How to make moist yummy banana bread-A tutorial!

You’ve seen the recipe before on my blog-in zucchini bread form, but here’s a tutorial on how to make rockin’ banana bread. I’ve tried a thousand recipes for banana bread and I keep coming back to this one as the best.

The secret to great banana bread is really ripe bananas, a good solid sweet bread recipe (our grandmas might’ve called it batter bread), and plenty of spices to kick it up a notch-as our dear friend, Emeril would say!

This recipe fits the bill, and I promise you that you don’t need to be the Next Food Network Star or a contestant on Top Chef in order to make this dish transform you into a rock star in the kitchen.

Well, enough of all this blabbin’, let’s get to cooking.

We’ll start with a quick tip for ripening bananas quickly:

If you buy your bananas at the store and they are still green, but you’d like to make banana bread tomorrow, you’ll need to grab a paper bag (like from the grocery store), a bunch of bananas, an apple or a tomato (optional, but speeds the process up considerably), and a little bit of time.

Ripe Bananas

Put the bunch of bananas in the bottom of the paper bag along with an apple or tomato, and seal the paper bag. Open every 12-24 hours to check, then re-close your bag until the bananas are the desired ripeness. They will brown much faster than if you seperated them on the counter. There’s a chemical that the apple puts off that helps ripen the bananas. Do NOT refrigerate the bananas-ever-b/c once you do, you’ve lost the ability for the banana to ever get past the ripeness it was at when you put it in the fridge, and you’ll never get banana bread-quality bananas out of them!

Next, let’s gather our ingredients:
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3 eggs

1 c. oil

1 Tbl. vanilla

2 1/4 c. sugar

2 c. mashed bananas (4-6, and don’t forget to mash them before you measure!)

1/2 tsp. baking powder

2 tsp. baking soda

3 c. flour

3/4 tsp. salt

1 Tbl. cinnamon (yes, this is a LOT of cinnamon, but it’s what makes this recipe great, so don’t skimp on it!)

Next, we mash the bananas. Ripe bananas are not only more flavorful in banana bread, but they also are easier to mash! Break them up into a small bowl or large measuring container, using a fork or potato masher to mash them to a liquidy pulp.
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Beat eggs, sugar, oil and vanilla.
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Add mashed bananas. Batter will be thin.
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Add dry ingredients, mix well. (Please note that my bananas sat on the counter for a bit after mashing, and therefore were a little browner than they might typically be, which may’ve affected the color of the batter at this stage.
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Grease and flour pan, pour batter into pans-batter will still be pretty thin, much thinner than most banana bread recipes, so don’t panic. Also, please note that in these pictures I used my silicone baking pans, so I only sprayed them with cooking oil spray instead of greasing and flouring the pan, but if going with a traditional metal or glass pan, you’re going to want to grease and flour the pan as per the directions. There’s a really cool “grease and flour” spray out there nowadays that makes this so easy:
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But if you don’t have access to this luxury time saver, you could always do it the old fashioned way.

The batter in the pans, before going into the oven.
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Bake 1 hr. at 325. Makes 1 bundt or 2 regular loaves. Remove from pan right away. Do Not Overcook! You can optionally add 1 cup of nuts, chocolate chips, dried fruits, whatever you’d like really, but we like it plain. Whenever I’m making it for a crowd, I’m sure to avoid putting nuts into it b/c of all the people with nut allergies. If I do use nuts, I avoid walnuts at all costs, b/c I believe that walnuts dry out a batter worse than anything I’ve ever seen, so I go with chopped pecans. It’s whatever makes you and your family and friends happy that matters, so go with what sounds good!
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And there’s one of my beautiful banana bread loaves, see how easy that was?

Super Easy Lemonade Icebox Pie Recipe

Who doesn’t love Lemonade Pie? I mean it’s lemonade and it’s PIE, how could one go wrong? It’s a summer favorite around here, even my husband who loves lemonade, but hates lemon meringue pie devours this stuff like it’s going out of style! So I happened across a pic I took of a slice of this scrumptious pie and thought I’d share the recipe and picture with my lovely readers. Enjoy!

Lemon Icebox Pie

And here’s the recipe:
Lemonade Icebox Pie

Ingredients:
* 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
* 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
* 3/4 cup lemonade concentrate
* 1 (8 ounce) carton frozen whipped topping, thawed
* yellow food coloring
* 1 (9 inch) graham cracker crust

Directions:
In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Gradually beat in milk until blended. Beat in lemonade concentrate. Fold in whipped topping and food coloring if desired. Pour into crust. Cover and refrigerate until set. I also put fresh whipped topping on the top of each slice of pie.

Baked/Fried Catfish, Coleslaw, and Cornbread!

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A year or so ago, I came across an excellent recipe for “fried catfish” that is really baked, but tastes like it is fried. I’m not terribly health conscious, however, this appealed to me for some reason and I thought I’d give it a shot. It is now my favorite and ONLY recipe for catfish that I use. It’s incredibly yummy and comes together pretty quickly for dinners as well. The recipe can be found on Allrecipes.com, but here it is for those that would like it:

OVEN-FRIED CATFISH
Ingredients:
1 1/2 pounds catfish fillets
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup skim milk
cooking spray

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and coat with cooking spray.
In a shallow dish, stir together the cornmeal, paprika, thyme, salt, celery seed, onion powder, garlic powder, and pepper. Dip the catfish fillets in milk, then place them into the cornmeal mixture and coat liberally; place on the greased baking sheet. Coat the tops of the fillets with cooking spray until wet.
Bake for 15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until fish is easily flaked with a fork.

I also found a pretty awesome recipe for coleslaw that is quick and easy and tastes similar to, but better than, famous restaurant brands like KFC and Long John Silvers.
SWEET RESTAURANT SLAW
Ingredients:
1 (16 ounce) bag coleslaw mix
2 tablespoons diced onion
2/3 cup creamy salad dressing (such as Miracle Whip™)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds (optional) I use celery seed instead-yum!

 

Directions:
Combine the coleslaw mix and onion in a large bowl.
Whisk together the salad dressing, vegetable oil, sugar, vinegar, salt, and poppy seeds in a medium bowl; blend thoroughly. Pour dressing mixture over coleslaw mix and toss to coat. Chill at least 2 hours before serving.

 

My cornbread recipe can be found here 

Enjoy!

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