December 31, 2009

Best Eats of 2009

The end of a year calls for reflection-- reflection on tasty things you have eaten. At the moment, I am thinking of all the pigging out I did at family gatherings over Christmas. Ravioli stuffed with large chunks of fresh lobster and topped with a cream sauce. An especially perfect medium rare filet mignon topped with mushrooms. Stone-ground grits that I actually liked the taste of sans cheese. But I digress from the point of this post, which would be foods I actually blogged about this year.

I thought long and hard about what posts you, my blog-reading friends, told me you liked and about what I had made multiple times during the year. And so, I bring you the first annual Best of 2009 Maple Macaroni awards. I played with fancier foods in some posts, but it seems that the best recipes are new twists on the basics.

Best Crowd-Pleasing Dessert
Gooey Butter Cookies

Best and Most Versitile Snack
Black Bean Hummus

Best Cookie
Oatmeal Toffee Cookies

Most Innovative/Easiest and Most Simple Meal
Tortilla Pizzas

Most Decadent Finger Food
Chunky Chocolate Brownies

What were your favorite new recipes from 2009? Please comment and let me know, be it from this blog or wherever else.

December 29, 2009

Recipe: Carrot Cake

The secret ingredient to this cake is the maple flavor in the frosting; its subtle flavor is sophisticated and complements the carrot-spice flavor of the cake. When I made this last time, the cakes were stubborn to come out of the pans, but the icing came to the rescue and covered up their imperfection.



The recipe came from my mom's Mee-maw's files, but no one remembered her ever making it, or any other dessert. Thankfully, my grandmother revived this maple-infused gem of a recipe recipe back when she cooked and my mom made it years ago. Then last year I again brought it back to life and showed off the heirloom first for a friend's birthday and again this Thanksgiving.

Carrot Cake

2 cups all purpose flour

2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

4 eggs

1 cup canola oil

4 cups grated raw carrot (8 medium carrots)

½ cup chopped pecans

1 recipe cream cheese frosting (below)

Thoroughly stir together flour, sugar, soda, salt and cinnamon.

In large bowl, beat eggs till frothy: slowly beat in oil.

Gradually add flour mixture, beating till smooth. Mix in carrots and nuts. Pour into 3 greased and floured 8 inch round cake pans.

Bake in 350 oven for 25 or 30 minutes.

Cool pans 10 minutes. Remove from pans. Cool completely on racks.

Fill & frost with cream cheese frosting. Decorate top with pecan halves if desired.

Cream cheese frosting

1 8-oz. package cream cheese

6 tablespoons butter, softened

1 1-lb. box powdered sugar, sifted (I skip sifting because I am lazy)

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon maple flavoring

In small bowl, blend softened butter and softened cream cheese with a mixer. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating till smooth and creamy. Stir in vanilla and maple flavoring.

December 25, 2009

Recipe: Yellow Squash Casserole

I am not usually a big fan of the generic casserole with loads of cheese and cream-of-something soup. However, this one doesn't have too many ingredients to cover up the principal veggie, and the way it makes usually bland yellow squash taste so creamy and flavorful wins me over time.

My mom made a squash casserole regularly growing up, but the cream corn in this recipe made it the special-occasion squash casserole. Now I only make this one. My memory of the taste even convinced me to break my preference for seasonal eating to make a giant recipe of the crowd-pleaser -- half for community group everything-but-turkey Thanksgiving dinner and half for a dinner to serve residents of a low-income housing facility.

Squash Casserole

2 cups cooked and drained yellow squash

1 cup cream corn

1 medium onion, diced

2 tablespoons butter

2 eggs

1 tablespoon sugar

1 cup grated cheddar cheese

Salt and pepper to taste


1 ½ cups breadcrumbs or cracker crumbs (I like Kashi 7-grain TLC crackers), optional

Sauté onion with butter until tender. Mix everything together. Pour into a casserole dish and addcrumbs. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

December 18, 2009

Recipe: Tiramisu Toffee Trifle Pie

This festive layered dessert looks and tastes super fancy but was pretty simple to make. It was so photogenic for the pros that it made the  2000 Southern Living holiday dessert spread

Layer 1: slices of pound cake drizzled with coffee (I made decaf in my coffee pot so I could be a good old lady and get to sleep at night.)
Layer 2: a mix of chocolate syrup, cream cheese and Cool Whip that tastes like a light chocolate cheesecake
Layer 3: chopped toffee bars (or chopped whatever-chocolate-you-have-in-your-pantry, which was dark chocolate, milk chocolate-almond bar and toffee bits for me)

Bonus: The way these three layers enhance each other's flavors is a sum even better than its parts.
Tiramisu Toffee Trifle Pie

1 1/2  tablespoons  instant coffee granules

3/4  cup  warm water

1  (10.75-ounce) frozen pound cake, thawed

1  (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

1/2  cup  powdered sugar

1/2  cup  chocolate syrup

1  (12-ounce) container frozen whipped topping, thawed and divided

2  (1.4-ounce) English toffee candy bars, coarsely chopped

Stir together coffee and 3/4 cup warm water until coffee is dissolved. Cool.

Cut cake into 14 slices. Cut each slice in half diagonally. Place triangles in bottom and up sides of a 9-inch deep-dish pieplate. Drizzle coffee mixture over cake.

Beat mascarpone cheese, sugar, and chocolate syrup at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Add 2 1/2 cups whipped topping, and beat until light and fluffy.

Spread cheese mixture evenly over cake. Dollop remaining whipped topping around edges of pie. Sprinkle with candy. Chill 8 hours.

December 13, 2009

Recipe: (Historic!) Banana-Blueberry Bread

This bread recipe came from the Best of Taste II cookbook published by the Minneapolis Star in 1974. Being as baking-obessed as I am,  I saw no choice but to make something as a part of my presentation on the Taste food section and its founding editor. Reason 173 to love grad school would be combining my love of food with archival research (!!), social history and journalism.  Plus, a little mid-morning sugar never hurts making it through a three-hour seminar.

Taste's original food writing was a notable feat in 1969 in an era when most newspaper's food stories were essentially unaltered releases from food manufacturers (shame on them). It was also part of a movement away from the traditional "fluff" reporting of women's pages to having non-gendered lifestyle sections with higher reporting standards and harder-hitting topics. (My apologies for dorking out over journalism history on my food blog.)

This recipe had a special asterick next to it in the cookbook noting that this "summery take" on banana bread was a special favorite of the editors. Luckily, with frozen blueberries I was able to treasure the taste of summer on day that required wearing multiple layers of clothing. The taste of the bread matched the sweet aroma that emanated as it baked; it lived up to  the book's claim that  “if someone could bottle the aroma of baking bread, he’d [OR she!, my edit] make a fortune." The inclusion of quick-cooking oats added a more little more grainy texture to the bread, but it was still sweet enough with the sugar and fruit to taste like cake.

Banana-Blueberry Bread
1 ½ cups flour
2/3 cup sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp salt
3/4 cup quick-cooking oats
1/3 cups salad oil (apparently this is what they used to call vegetable oil)
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 cups bananas, mashed
3/4 cup fresh blueberries (I used frozen)
Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a mixing bowl. Stir in oats. Add oil, eggs, bananas and blueberries, and stir just until all ingredients are mixed and moist. Turn batter into an 8 1/2x4 ½ inch loaf pan and bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 60-65 minutes. Let cool in pan 10 minutes, then removed from pan and let cool thoroughly on a wire rack. Wrap and store in refrigerator several hours or overnight before slicing.
Variation: Substitute 3/4 cup mashed fresh strawberries for blueberries.  

December 10, 2009

Books and Bites: Peppermint Bonbon Cookies

The dark color of this chocolate-peppermint bite beat out the darkness of the stories in David Sedaris' Holidays on Ice for book club this month.

The chocolate-intense cookie is soft, but the crushed peppermint adds a nice crunch and stronger mint flavor that brings out the mint in the chocolate dough. They look and taste like Christmas to me. The recipe requires that you allow the dough to get firm in the fridge, and rolling the balls of dough and then pressing in peppermint pieces turned out to be quite time- consuming. But masterpieces take time, right? 

If you make small dough balls like me, you'll end up with a large plate full of cookies. I brought mine to serve at an awards reception (where they garnered several compliments and a recipe request) and still had more than enough to stuff my face back home and freeze a bunch for visitors later. The recipe came from one of member's cousins, who got it Oxmoor House (who has a nifty how-to video for the recipe online).

Peppermint Bonbon Cookies
8  ounces  bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped (I used chocolate chips)
1/2  cup  unsalted butter
1 1/2  ounces  unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/2  cup  finely crushed hard peppermint candies (or candy canes)
6  tablespoons  granulated sugar
3  large eggs
1  teaspoon  vanilla extract
1  teaspoon  peppermint extract
1 1/2  cups  all-purpose flour
3/4  teaspoon  baking powder
1/4  teaspoon  salt
1/2  cup  semisweet chocolate morsels
Additional coarsely crushed hard peppermint candies, divided
1/2  cup  powdered sugar (optional)
2 1/2  teaspoons  milk (optional)
1/2  cup  semisweet chocolate morsels, melted (optional)
Combine first 3 ingredients in a large saucepan; cook over low heat until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, and stir in 1/2 cup crushed peppermint and 6 Tbsp. sugar. Let cool 30 minutes.
Add eggs to melted chocolate, 1 at a time, stirring well. Stir in extracts.
Combine flour, baking powder, and salt; add to chocolate mixture, stirring until combined. Stir in chocolate morsels. Cover and chill dough 2 hours or until firm enough to shape.
Shape dough into 1 1/2" balls; place on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Bake at 325° for 12 to 13 minutes or until cookies are puffed and cracked on top. Sprinkle coarsely crushed peppermints onto cookies; press candy lightly into cookies. Let cookies cool 5 minutes on baking sheets. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely.
Whisk together powdered sugar and milk; drizzle over cooled cookies, if desired. Drizzle with melted chocolate, if desired. Sprinkle cookies again with chopped peppermint, if desired. Let cookies stand until glaze and chocolate are firm.

December 4, 2009

Recipe: Tomato Bisque

This creation came (hard) copy of a Ladies' Home Journal recipe for chicken tomato bisque my grandmother gave me a few months ago . I followed her enlightening (pun intended) notes to substitute of half and half for cream and leave out the chicken. The rich tomato, oregano and garlic flavors with a hint of cream stood quite well on their own, leaving no need for meat. A final word of advice: don't get lazy and skip the blender step like I did at first; a creamy tomato soup's taste and texture will best delight your tongue when pureed and left not with tomato chunks. It made for a simple, savory dinner (and side to a sandwich for lunch later in the week).

Chicken Tomato Bisque

2  Tbsp. olive oil

1  carrot, chopped

1  medium onion, chopped

2  cloves garlic, minced

1/4  cup all-purpose flour

1  28-oz can whole tomatoes with juice

1-1/2  cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 tsp chopped oregano

1/2  cup heavy half and half

1  tsp salt

In a large pot over medium-high heat, combine olive oil, carrot, onion and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally until onion is soft, 6 to 8 min. Stir in flour until vegetables are coated; then add tomatoes. Add broth and 1/2 tsp oregano and stir, breaking up tomatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook 8 to 10 min.

Working in small batches, puree soup in a blender or food processor and transfer back to pot. Stir in half and half and salt and heat through. Season to taste with salt and ground black pepper and serve garnished with remaining oregano. 

November 30, 2009

Recipe: Brownie Trifle

The first time I had these layers of brownie, chocolate pudding, cool whip and Butterfinger crumbs was at a church event in middle school, and I've been making this Southern Living recipe for groups ever since. The presentation is fancy but the ingredients are simple and sure to please anyone, except for that strange minority that doesn't like chocolate. All the textures blend together to make the sum of the trifle greater than its parts, which is pretty fantastic considering the height of the pedestal on which I put brownies and Butterfinger.

Brownie Trifle

1 (19.8oz) package brownie mix

3 (3.9oz.) package chocolate instant pudding

1 (12oz.) container Cool Whip

6 toffee bars, crushed (or butterfinger)

1. Prepare brownies, cool, and crumble.

2. Prepare pudding mix using total of 4 cups milk instead of 5, omitting chilling.

3. Place 1/3 brownies in 3 quart trifle bowl; top with 1/3 pudding, Cool Whip, and crushed candy bars. Repeat layers twice.

4. Cover and chill at least 8 hours. 

November 24, 2009

Recipe: Lemony Lentil Stew

This stew, like a thick soup without much liquid, features a small, round bean. Lentils pack a whole lot of vitamins and minerals into relatively few calories, and  their small size allows them to cook quickly. They are the only dry bean to date that I have cooked because they are much less daunting than bigger beans. 

Just simmer them down with some other wholesome, flavorful ingredients for a hearty stew that will fill you up. The lemon and edamame enliven the usual onion-tomato-bean combo, and the tomato and edamame add to the color palette. The recipe comes from the Dec. 2008 Cooking Light, but I added lemony to the name because I found liked my end product that involved squeezing my lemon to my heart's content.


Lemony Lentil Stew
1  cup  dried lentils
3/4  cup  frozen shelled edamame (green soybeans) (I substituted lima beans because they were in my freezer)
2  tablespoons  olive oil
1 1/2  cups  minced red onion
3  garlic cloves, minced
1  (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
6  tablespoons fresh lemon juice (I didn’t measure, just squeezed a lot ‘o lemon.)
1  teaspoon parsley
1  tablespoon  chopped fresh mint (I omitted this)           
1/2  teaspoon  salt
1/2  teaspoon  ground cumin
1/8  teaspoon  ground red pepper
1/8  teaspoon  ground cinnamon
Dash of ground cloves
Place lentils in a large saucepan; cover with water to 2 inches above lentils. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until tender. Drain well, and set aside.
Place edamame in a small saucepan; cover with water to 2 inches above edamame. Bring to a boil; cook 2 minutes or until edamame are tender. Remove from heat; drain well. (I cooked lentils and edamame in separate pots at the same time.)
Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, and tomatoes to pan; sauté 6 minutes or until onion is translucent, stirring often. Stir in lentils, edamame, juice, and remaining ingredients. Cook 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring often.

November 16, 2009

Recipe: Chunky Chocolate Brownies

For years I was content with box brownies even though I refused to use most boxes because pure, natural scratch ingredients have a superior taste. The brownies I had eaten that were made from scratch were too cakey and not fudgy, and so many recipes call for baking chocolate that I don't always have on hand. And then I discovered what a brownie from scratch should be with this Southern Living recipe

The brownie is thick, rich and gooey and perfectly chocolatey, almost as good as the ones my dad brings home from the former-bakery-owner that just so happens to be his boss' wife. Better yet, the recipe calls for chocolate chips (semi-sweet, of course) and a few other basic ingredients and wasn't too involved to make. I can still enjoy a good box brownie, but the greater concentration of chocolate makes these far richer and more satisfying for a craving for a decadent dessert. The only way up from there is serving it a la mode and maybe adding a little peppermint extract for minty brownies the next time.

Chunky Chocolate Brownies

2  tablespoons  water

3/4  cup  granulated sugar

1/3  cup  butter

1  (11.5-ounce) package semisweet chocolate chunks, divided

2  large eggs

1  teaspoon  vanilla extract

3/4  cup  all-purpose flour

1/4  teaspoon  salt

1/2  cup  chopped hazelnuts or pecans, toasted (I leave the nuts out and go for the pure chocolate.)

Combine first 3 ingredients in a 3 1/2-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and stir in 1 cup chocolate chunks until smooth. Let cool 5 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, stirring just until blended. Stir in vanilla.

Combine flour and salt; stir in remaining chocolate chunks and hazelnuts. Stir flour mixture into chocolate mixture in saucepan. Spread into a lightly greased 9-inch square pan.

Bake at 325° for 23 to 28 minutes. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Dust with powdered sugar. Cut into squares.

November 11, 2009

Recipe: Black- Eyed Pea Cakes

This recipe is in keeping with my recent bean-are-substantive-and-good-for-you kick, yet the healthy black-eyeds provide a little sinful satisfaction because you keep 'em in oil. I like to combine the flavor of the cumin and onion in the cakes with toppings of ,pepper jack cheese and plain yogurt mixed with green tabasco sauce. A green salad with vinaigrette complements the creamy-beany taste nicely for a veggie-filled lunch. The credit for this recipe goes to who else but Cooking Light.

Black-Eyed Pea Cakes
1  (15.8-ounce) can no-salt-added black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
1/4  cup  dry breadcrumbs
1  tablespoon  finely chopped onion
1/2  teaspoon  bottled minced garlic
1/2  teaspoon  ground cumin
1/2  teaspoon  salt
1/4  teaspoon  black pepper
1  large egg, lightly beaten
1  large egg white, lightly beaten
1 1/2  teaspoons  olive oil
Place beans in a medium bowl; partially mash beans with a fork. Stir in breadcrumbs and next 7 ingredients (through egg white). With floured hands, divide pea mixture into 4 equal portions, shaping each portion into a 1/2-inch-thick patty.
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add patties to pan; cook 2 minutes on each side or until golden and thoroughly heated. Remove from pan; top each cake with 1 tablespoon cheese. Serve with sour cream mixture.

November 6, 2009

Recipe: Blueberry Cheesecake Muffins

When  reference to making blueberry cheesecake muffins showed up in my facebook news feed, the name was enough to send me to google to find this recipe on Recipe Zaar. And the bakery-like taste (thanks almond extract) and light consistency (thanks ricotta and yogurt) did not fail to live up to my high expectations. A friend  referred them as cupcakes, and I think the level of decadence makes that an accurate statement. There's no need for icing.
Blueberry Cheesecake Muffins

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup sugar, plus

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1/4 cup melted butter

1/3 cup plain yogurt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

2/3 cup ricotta cheese

2 eggs

1 cup blueberries (I used frozen ones.)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease 8-10 muffins tins.

In a large bowl combine with a wire whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt until well blended. In a medium-sized bowl beat together the almond extract, vanilla extract, melted butter, ricotta cheese, and eggs. Add to flour mixture. Carefully fold in the blueberries. Fill the muffin cups 2/3 full and bake 20 minutes.

November 2, 2009

Recipe: White Chili

What this chili lacks in color it makes up for in flavor thanks to green Tabasco sauce and onions and peppers. Together with cornbread (from scratch!), its warm temperature and flavor was perfect on a fall day that decided to act like it was winter. The inspiration for the dish goes to my friend Haynes' white chili from earlier in the week; our regular catch-up chats inevitably include discussing we've cooked recently.

I like how the Cooking Light recipe suggested topping it with plain yogurt instead of say, sour cream. Once you mix it up, all that matters taste-wise is that it's something creamy to contribute to texture and flavor. Yogurt is starting to rival my affair with sour cream, a staple that has long held my heart (I don't think it's normal to enjoy eating it straight). I added green pepper and cut down on the chicken from the original recipe; it gave me four servings.

White Chili
2  teaspoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups chicken broth
5  teaspoons green hot pepper sauce (such as Tabasco)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large chicken breasts, cut in halves
2 tablespoons cornmeal
1  (19-ounce) can cannellini beans or other white beans, drained
plain yogurt
2 tablespoons  thinly sliced green onions (about 1)
Cook green pepper, onion and garlic in oil in a large pot; cook 5 minutes or until onion is tender, stirring occasionally. Add broth, hot pepper sauce, salt, and chicken to pan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 15 minutes. Remove chicken from broth mixture; cool.
Add cornmeal and beans to broth mixture, stirring with a whisk; simmer 15 minutes. Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces and add them to the pot; simmer 5 minutes or until mixture thickens, stirring frequently. Top each serving with yogurt; sprinkle with green onions. 

October 29, 2009

Recipe: Nanaimo Bars

The Layers
1. Chocolate graham layer
2. Buttercream layer
3. (Straight) chocolate layer

The only other things you need to know:
1. The Canadian treat is rich but not overwhelmingly chocolatey
2. I highly recommend them
3. I found the recipe on Joy of Baking

Nanaimo Bars

Bottom Layer:

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, room temperature

1/4 cup granulated white sugar

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa

1 large egg, beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1 cup coconut (I left this out to be more of a crowd pleaser)

1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (I left these out too)

In a saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Stir in the sugar and cocoa powder and then gradually whisk in the beaten egg. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens (1 - 2 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract, graham cracker crumbs, coconut, and chopped nuts. Press the mixture evenly into greased 9x9 (or 8x8) pan. Cover and refrigerate until firm (about an hour).

Filling:

½ stick (1/4 cup) butter, room temperature

2 - 3 tablespoons milk

2 tablespoons vanilla pudding powder

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups powdered sugar sugar

In a saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Stir in the sugar and cocoa powder and then gradually whisk in the beaten egg. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens (1 - 2 minutes). Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract, graham cracker crumbs, coconut, and chopped nuts. Press the mixture evenly into the prepared pan. Cover and refrigerate until firm (about an hour).

 

Topping:

4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

1 tablespoon butter

Melt the chocolate and butter in a small saucepan. Spread  over the filling (I had issues spreading it, but it turned out ok), and refrigerate. 

October 26, 2009

Three Things: Pumpkin Snacks

Pumpkin ain't just for pie. It's packed with nutrients; 1/2 cup of the canned good gives you 300% of your daily vitamin A and vitamin C for only 40 calories. And when mixed with the right things, it maintains the nutty-orange-veggie flavor that you love about pumpkin desserts (I prefer bread or cake) yet makes for a healthier snack.

I opened a can this week and played around with various recipes I found online. All these recipes are approximations; play around with the measurements and make it your own.

1. Pumpkin Pie Dip
Sweet enough to be pie but simpler to make. Dip graham cracker and ginger snaps for full-out dessert or apples to for a fruity flavor that's a little more healthy.
Mix 1 can pumpkin, an 8-oz. block of softened [reduced fat] cream cheese, 1 cup brown sugar, 1 Tbsp. maple syrup, 1 Tbsp. orange juice, and 1 tsp. cinnamon.

2. Pumpkin-Banana Smoothie
A filling breakfast that just tastes like fall with a hint of banana.
Mix in blender 1 banana, 1/3 cup canned pumpkin, 6 ice cubes, 1/3 plain or vanilla yogurt, 1/2 cup milk, 2 Tbsp. brown sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla (if use plain yogurt) and 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice.

3. Pumpkin Spread
It might sound strange, but once bit will convince you it's tasty. I first used it as spread but now make pumpkin-peanut butter sandwiches almost weekly this time of year.
Mix 1/3 cup pumpkin, 3 Tbsp. peanut butter, 1 Tbsp. honey, 1 tsp. cinnamon (I usually just guess on the measurements though)

October 23, 2009

Recipe: Tzatziki

I haven't gotten adventurous enough to make my own gyros yet, but this yogurt-cucumber sauce makes chicken taste almost as good as lamb. It also contains a few of my other simple, natural cooking favorites: garlic, lemon juice and olive oil. I put mine on a tortilla wrap with chopped tomato and cooked chicken, and for another meal I mixed it with a bunch of veggies and chicken. Yum, a light, delightful lunch. Thanks, Cooking Light.
Tzatziki
2  cups  plain 2% low-fat Greek-style yogurt
3/4  cup  shredded seeded peeled cucumber
3  tablespoons  chopped fresh mint (I didn't have any on hand and left it out.)
2  tablespoons  chopped fresh dill
1  tablespoon  extra-virgin olive oil
1  tablespoon  fresh lemon juice
1/4  teaspoon  salt
3  garlic cloves, minced

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring well.

October 20, 2009

Recipe: Oatmeal Toffee Cookies

I don't like raisins in my cookies, but I sure like oatmeal. Toffee and brown sugar give these guys just enough rich sweetness, and please-don't-let-my-cookie-get-crunchy eater me liked how the thin cookies were chewy with crispy edges.  

I moved the recipe's Cooking Light clip from my "Recipe Ideas" file to my (keeper) "Recipes" file (files keep my personal life in order--I am ok to be dorky about it), so they'll have to go into the rotation of what is becoming a weekly cookie-baking routine.

Oatmeal Toffee Cookies

¾ cup  all-purpose flour

1  cup  old-fashioned rolled oats

1/2  teaspoon  baking soda

1/4  teaspoon  salt

3/4  cup  packed brown sugar

1/4  cup  butter, softened

1  teaspoon  vanilla extract

1  large egg

1/3  cup  almond toffee bits

Cooking spray

Combine flour, oats, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Place sugar and butter in a separate bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 5 minutes). Add vanilla and egg; beat well. Add flour mixture; beat just until combined. Stir in toffee bits.

Drop dough by tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart on 2 baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 11 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on pans 1 minute. Remove cookies from pans; cool completely on wire racks.

October 15, 2009

Three Things: Veggie Snack Meals

Since starting to cook for myself on a regular basis, I have discovered just how tasty veggies can be when prepared the way I like them. Many of my meals consist of snack-like improvisations of veggies on hand. My favorites from this week are:
1. Sweet potato chries
A cross between chips and fries. Gotta love the orange goodness.
Bake sweet potato slices coated in olive oil and salt at 425 degrees for 10 minutes or until some begin to brown.
2. Five-Layer Dip
A healthier rendition of seven-layer dip, and it tastes just as good
Layer plain Greek yogurt, black bean hummus, chopped tomatoes and green pepper, black olives. I ate it with toasted tortilla coated in olive oil.

3. Kiwi-pecan salad
My favorite quick, candy-like salad
Salad greens, sliced kiwi, sugared pecans and Annie's Naturals Light Vinaigrette 

October 12, 2009

Recipe: Chocolate Chip Cookie-Topped Brownies

A combination of brownies and chocolate chip cookies (the best basic desserts ever) has to be good, right? I knew I was for sure in for an above-average treat when I put this much chocolate (see pot below) in the brownie layer, without even getting to the cookie butter-flour-sugar-chocolate mixture. 
The end result was more than worth the extended time the multi-step recipe required. The thick brownie was super rich, as I was anticipating with the high concentration of butter and chocolate.  Because the brownie layer is so dominant, the cookie layer tastes more like a crispy top to the brownie than a cookie. The j-school people at my tailgate were pretty impressed by both the concept an the taste. Props go to Eggs on Sunday for the recipe
Chocolate Chip Cookie-Topped Brownies

For the brownie layer

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped

2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into chunks

1 2/3 cups sugar

4 large eggs

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

For the cookie layer

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 sticks (12 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 cups (packed) light brown sugar

2/3 cup sugar

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup chocolate chips

To make the brownie batter, melt both chocolates and the butter together in a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring occasionally. Melt and stir just until the mixture is shiny and smooth, then remove the bowl from the heat and set aside.

Meanwhile, beat the sugar and eggs together with a mixer on medium high speed for about 2 minutes, until pale, thick and creamy. Beat in the salt and vanilla,  and then reduce the speed to low and mix in the melted chocolate and butter, mixing just until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and then add the flour, mixing on low speed just until it disappears into the batter. Scrape the batter out into a greased 9x13 pan. Set aside.

To make the cookie dough, first whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl, and set aside. Beat the butter and both sugars together on medium-high speed until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. One at a time, add the egg and the egg yolk, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla, and then reduce the speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they disappear into the batter. Still on low, mix in the chopped chocolate.

Drop the cookie dough by spoonfuls onto the brownie batter, and then use a spatula to gently smooth out the cookie dough layer evenly over the batter.

Bake for 50 to 55 minutes at 350 degrees, until the cookie top is deep golden brown and a sharp knife inserted into the pan comes out with only faint streaks of moist chocolate.

For the best-shaped brownies, practice your patience and wait until they’re cool to cut them. (I was in a hurry and put them in my freezer for a while.)


October 7, 2009

Recipe: Summer Minestrone

The Italian influence of minestrone is what made me like pure-veggie soup for the first time. No sodium-filled chicken stock is necessary for a hearty, savory soup when you cook down carrots, onions, tomatoes and zucchini with basil, parsley and thyme and then add beans and pasta. 

Even though this is "summer" soup, I found the New York Times recipe last fall, and it became the first of my series of fall and winter soup-making Sundays that give me meals throughout the week (and then more meals when I freeze part). I tweaked the recipe a bit for my tastes (no turnips, please) and to simplify fancy pistous and bouqet garni.

Summer Minestrone 

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
Salt
4 large garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 pound tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped, or 1 (14-ounce) can chopped tomatoes, with liquid
3/4 pound zucchini, diced
2 bay leaves
Thyme, parsley, and basil to taste
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini or borlotti beans, drained and rinsed
6 ounces green beans, cut into 1-inch lengths
1/2 cup soup pasta, such as elbow macaroni or broken spaghetti, or 3/4 cup penne
Pepper
Freshly grated Parmesan for garnish
Heat the olive oil to medium-low range in a large, heavy pot, and add the onion, carrots and celery. Cook, stirring about three minutes until vegetables begin to soften, and add 1/2 teaspoon salt. Continue to cook, stirring often, until tender, about five more minutes. Add the garlic, stir together for about a minute, then mix in the tomatoes. Keep stirring until the tomatoes have cooked down and smell fragrant, about 10 minutes. Stir in two quarts (8 cups) water, the zucchini and spices, and bring to a simmer. Add 2 teaspoons salt. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 45 minutes. Stir in the canned beans. Taste and adjust salt.
While the soup is simmering, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and add the green beans. Boil five minutes, until tender but still bright green. Transfer to a bowl of ice water, allow to cool, and drain. Retain the cooking water in case you want to thin the soup. (For a lazier version, omit the green beans or add canned ones.)
Add the pasta to the soup and simmer another 10 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked al dente. Stir the cooked green beans into the soup. Grind in pepper, and adjust seasonings. Soup should be savory and rich-tasting. Remove bay leaves. Sprinkle Parmesan on the top of soup once served in bowls.
Yield: Serves six to eight

October 4, 2009

Recipe: Peanut Butter Pie

I got really excited when I had this pie at community group because it tasted just like a peanut butter pie I loved to get as a kid at Miss Myra's Barbecue in Birmingham (who got it from Rolling in the Dough bakery next door). Needless to say, I had to steal the recipe from the baker's Bride and Groom First and Forever Cookbook, which by the way had great recipes despite the cheesy title. 

The texture of the pie is extremely light, like whipped cream, probably because it's basically whipped cream with peanut butter mixed in. The vanilla wafer crust adds subtle flavor that complements the creamy filling well. The grandparents and parents gave it kudos, and my fantastic cook of a grandmother wanted to make it for her book club.

Peanut Butter Pie

Crust:

30 vanilla wafers

1/3 cup salted peanuts

2 tablespoons butter, melted

Filling:

¾ cup smooth peanut butter at room temperature

1 ½ cups heavy cream

¾ cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

Chocolate kisses or chocolate chips

Chocolate syrup (optional)

For crust, combine wafers and peanuts in a food processor and blend until crumbled. Add butter and pulse a few times. Press into a 9-inch baking dish. Bake 15 minutes at 325 degrees. Let cool for 15 minutes.

For filling, place peanut butter in a bowl. In a separate bowl, combine cream, powdered sugar and vanilla. Beat on medium high until peaks form, about a minute and a half. Stir half of cream mixture into peanut butter. Transfer this mixture back into cream mixture and beat on medium high just until incorporated. Pour into crust. Sprinkle with kisses or chocolate chips. Refrigerate until firm, at least 3 hours. Garnish with chocolate syrup if desired.

September 30, 2009

Recipe: Creamy Pesto Pasta Salad

The mission: Pesto pasta salad for picnic.

The ingredientsAt first I toyed with putting in pesto and mozzarella and tomatoes because I knew it would be good. But then I saw a recipe from Sweet Savory Life with creamy pesto and artichokes and peas. I don't really like peas, but the appeal of creaminess and artichokes would cover them up enough, I figured. And they did. I just tweaked my recipe to use yogurt, because in my book yogurt>mayo and Greek yogurt>plain yogurt. The end. 

The result: A flavor-packed cold pasta that got me on a kick of mixing vinaigrette-type dressings with yogurt to toss in my salads.
Creamy Pesto Pasta Salad


1/2 recipe pesto
5.3 oz. Greek yogurt (1 package)
1 package penne pasta
1 1/2 cups peas, cooked
1 can artichokes, chopped

Cook pasta. Stir prepared pesto with Greek yogurt. Mix pasta, pesto-yogurt mixture, peas and artichokes.  Serve cold.

September 26, 2009

Open Letter: Monkey Bread Baking Mold (and Recipe)

Dear Tumbleweed Pottery,

I commend you for creating a need for a better pan than the Bundt for the wonder pastry that is cinnamon-sugary, buttery monkey bread. You convinced my mother that her daughter who was dorky enough to ask for a popsicle-shaped cake pan as a high schooler would be excited to make her monkey bread in a specialty dish. In fact, I was excited about the inverted flower pot shape it would take as a I placed my cinnamon and sugar-coated biscuit quarters inside.

However, what you failed to realize is that the pot is too TALL and NARROW for the dough to cook in the middle before the tops and bottoms are crisp. My monkey bread was 1/3 fail and did not look pretty for its breakfast tailgate debut. Now, I like things a little doughy, but a significant portion of the dough was not not acceptable for eating even with the ridiculous amount of butter and sugar and cinnamon that coated it. And I've made this recipe numerous times without a glitch.

Luckily, I was able to pick out the cooked parts (on the plate on the right; uncooked mush is on the left in the photo below) to have something to contribute to the tailgate, and the pieces that were done did taste like their wonderful selves should. Thanks for saving me from allowing myself overeat leftovers of butter and sugar to the point of feeling sick (been there, done that on a high school band trip), but your monkey bread pan will no longer have a place in my limited kitchen space.

I will, however, share my monkey bread recipe for my friends to make in their BUNDT pans.

Sincerely,
An unsatisfied owner of your fancy-shmancy baking mold

Monkey Bread

4 cans buttermilk canned refrigerated biscuits
1 3/4 c. granulated sugar
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 c.) butter
1 1/2 tbsp. cinnamon

Quarter biscuits and dip them in a mixture of  3/4 cup sugar and cinnamon. Put biscuits in well greased angel food cake or Bundt pan. Bring remaining 1 cup sugar and butter to a boil, and pour over biscuit pieces. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Remove from pan immediately, serve when cool.

September 23, 2009

Recipe: Banana-Oatmeal-Chocolate Chip Cookies

These guys' cake-like consistency made them taste like banana bread in cookie form, with chocolate.  One of my co-editors described it as "breakfast in a cookie" as she and the rest of us hanging around the magazine office that morning helped ensure that they were eaten in their freshest form. 

The rave reviews they received might or might not be why I received the "Most Likely to Satisfy a Sweet Tooth" at the staff awards a week or so later. It's a good thing I caved into my late night desire to try out this Cooking Light reader recipe for a (somewhat) healthier dessert. and smashed up my overripe banana to blend with some of the best basic ingredients (chocolate, oats, butter, sugar).  

Banana-Oatmeal-Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup mashed ripe banana (about 1 medium)

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup butter, softened

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon  vanilla extract

1 egg

1 ¼ cups  all-purpose

2  ups  old-fashioned oats

1 teaspoon  baking soda

1/2 teaspoon  salt

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Add egg; beat well.

Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, oats, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add flour mixture to banana mixture in bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Stir in chocolate chips.

Drop batter by heaping tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 18 minutes or until golden. Cool on pans 2 minutes. Remove cookies from pans; cool completely on wire racks.

September 19, 2009

Three Things: Tortilla Pizzas

The best simple restaurant-food-wannabe dinner option for a solitary eater. Throw on toppings based on what you have in your fridge and freezer.

The basic idea: Spray a tortilla with olive oil. Place on a cookie sheet (or pizza pan) in oven preheated to 425 degrees. Let cook until tortilla begins to brown, about 7 minutes (but do not let it burn-- been there, done that, started over). Add sauce, cheese and toppings. Return to oven and bake until the cheese melts, about 5 minutes.

1. Pesto
Inspiration: Schlotzsky's Mediterranean pizza
What: pesto sauce topped with Parmesan and feta cheese and chopped tomatoes
I eat it: when I have pesto and feta on hand


2. Barbecue Chicken
Inspiration: Memphis Pizza Cafe
What: barbecue sauce (I like Bullseye because it's the only one of the 20 or 30 labels I looked at that didn't have preservatives) topped with shredded (sharp) cheddar cheese, chopped chicken (I keep a stock of this in my freeze) and chopped red onion
I eat it: almost every week in the winter


3. Sausage and Bell Pepper
Inspiration: any ole pizza joint
What: marinara sauce topped with shredded mozzerella, cooked crumbled sausage, chopped orange bell pepper
I eat it: the least frequently (Usually I prefer to grab a slice of Shakespeare's to fulfill "normal" pizza cravings.)

September 15, 2009

Recipe: Gooey Butter Cookies

These guys are cake in cookie form, and pretty much everyone is ecstatic about that. This is my go-to recipe for a 5-ingredient assured crowd pleaser. People tell me that gooey butter cake is a St. Louis thing, and that these are very similar. 

You can use any kind of cake mix, but my favorite is plain ole yellow. I originally pulled the recipe from christmascookie.com because that's what popped up first in my Google search for "gooey butter cookie" after I fell in love with the taste from one at Bogie's Deli in Memphis.

Gooey Butter Cookies

1 18.5-oz. package (yellow) cake mix
1 stick butter, softened
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup powdered sugar

Cream together cream cheese and butter. Add the egg and vanilla then the cake mix. Stir until well blended. At this point the dough is really sticky, so I like to refrigerate it for a few hours so that it's easier to work with. Roll the dough into 1-inch balls, and roll the balls in powdered sugar. Place balls 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 13 minutes. It's tricky to tell when these cookies are done because they don't brown on top but do on the bottom, so I like to check the bottoms if I'm unsure. Also, they're supposed to be really soft and, you know, gooey. Remove from cookie sheets to cool on wire racks (or parchment paper).

September 8, 2009

Recipe: Mint Chocolate Ice Cream Pie

The mission: birthday dessert for my community group. Preferably a summery crowd pleaser.

The inspiration: my mom's mint chocolate chip ice cream squares.

The remedy: PIE! Real Kitchen Mom's recipe made for fewer servings and greater concentration of oreos, ice cream and chocolate, not to mention a prettier presentation.

The verdict: Rave reviews for putting simple ice cream sundae ingredients into in a pretty pie form.


Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream Pie

1 Oreo pie crust (recipe below, or cheat and buy one-- but it won't be as good)
1.5  quarts mint chocolate chip ice cream, softened
8 Oreos, crushed (I put mine in a plastic baggie and hit it with a spoon to leave some larger chunks)
1 recipe chocolate sauce

Spread ice cream in bottom of crust. Sprinkle crumbs on top. Spread chocolate sauce on ice cream and crumbs. Freeze until set.

Oreo Crust
2 1/4 cups Oreo crumbs, fine (I made mine in the food processor)
3 tablespoons butter, melted

Stir together Oreo crumbs and butter; spread in bottom of pie plate. Freeze for at least 30 minutes.

Chocolate Sauce
1/2 sugar
3 oz evaporated milk or cream
3 Tbsp cocoa
1 Tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla

Mix all ingredients in a sauce pan. Cook over medium and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute and remove from stove. Allow to cool. You can save some of the sauce for future ice cream toppers, unless you want the dessert even more ridiculously chocolaty.

September 3, 2009

Three Things: Fresh Penne and Basil

The challenge: three distinct ways to prepare these two items from my farmer's market booty together.The results:
1. Lemon and Feta
Most likely to be served as a light side dish
Olive oil and lemon juice mixed with warm pasta and sprinkled with chopped basil and crumbled feta.

2. Pesto Tomato
Most likely to be served in a generic Italian restaurant
Mixed penne with fresh pesto (it is the best way to serve fresh basil), parmesan and chopped cherry tomatoes.

3. Balsamic Pasta Salad
Most likely to be served in a girly lunch place
Mixed cold penne with my sweet balsamic vinaigrette (olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sugar, lemon juice), raw chopped green pepper, chopped fontina cheese and, of course, chopped basil.

August 31, 2009

Recipe: French Toast Casserole

This bad boy is breakfast dessert. Eggs and cream and sugar and butter transform white bread into a delicacy that begs for seconds. Drawing on inspiration from a French toast casserole I had at boat church a few years back (that I remembered had Grand Marnier), I whipped this out on a whim to prepare something a little different for community group breakfast night. 

It gained rave reviews on the buffet line alongside stellar omelets, pancakes and potatoes. There are lots of recipes for French toast casserole out there, but the prospect of the sinful tastiness of this recipe from a weird user-generated site called Squidoo convinced me that it was to be my guide.

French Toast Casserole

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter

1 cup packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons corn syrup

8- to 9-inch round loaf country-style bread

5 large eggs

1 1/2 cups half-and-half

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon Grand Marnier (I didn't want to spend $40 on a bottle just to use one teaspoon, so I substituted orange juice.)

1/4 teaspoon salt

Powder Sugar

In a small heavy saucepan melt butter with brown sugar and corn syrup over moderate heat, stirring, until smooth and pour into a 13x9-inch baking dish.

Cut six 1-inch thick slices from center portion of bread, reserving ends for another use, and trim crusts.

Arrange bread slices in one layer in baking dish, squeezing them slightly to fit.

In a bowl whisk together eggs, half-and-half, vanilla, Grand Marnier, and salt until combined well and pour evenly over bread. Chill bread mixture, covered, at least 8 hours and up to 1 day.

Preheat oven to 350° F. and bring bread to room temperature.

Bake bread mixture, uncovered, in middle of oven until puffed and edges are pale golden, 35 to 40 minutes. Garnish with powdered sugar if desired.

Serve hot immediately.

August 27, 2009

Three Things: No Lettuce Required

What follows are the result of playing with my farmer's market finds after lettuce had left the building, er market (it's too hot now in mid-Mo). I boiled up a bunch of veggies on Sunday and then threw them together for lunch during the week.

1. Corn salad
This really dresses up corn, and the Fritos add crunch and super salty flavor.
Ingredients: corn chopped off the cob, chopped green peppers and crushed Fritos tossed in 50/50 plain yogurt and mayo mix.


2. Potatoes, green beans and trout salad
Such a healthy yet tasty combo of flavors that I eagerly anticipated eating it a second day in a row. 
Ingredients: Chopped boiled new potatoes, green beans cooked with onion, crumbed smoked trout (from a package) tossed in a mixture of olive oil and white vinegar


3. Peach -walnut rice salad
Light, fruity, grainy.
Ingredients: cooked brown rice (I cooked it up in the morning while showering and eating breakfast), chopped peaches and chopped walnuts tossed in a mixture of olive oil, honey and lemon juice.

August 24, 2009

Pesto Cubes

It doesn't make sense not to whip up fresh pesto you can grab a bunch of basil at the farmer's market for a buck. But because I can only use so much of it to top my pasta, sandwiches and veggies in the week it is good, I froze what I had left in an ice cube tray to easily defrost for future meals, particularly after farmer's market season (tragically!) ends. I left the Parmesan out of my pesto recipe for better freezing consistency, so I just sprinkled the cheese on foods when I added the pesto.

Before:


After a few hours in the freeze, at which point they got individually packed and placed back into their frozen hibernation:

Pesto
(Recipe from my Cuisinart food processor booklet)

1/2 cup toasted pine nuts (or walnuts)
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves, washed and completely dried
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Add nuts to the processor and chop 5 times; remove and reserve. Add garlic to processor and chop for 5 seconds. Add basil and half the olive oil. Pulse on grind 10 times, then grind continuously for 15 seconds. With the machine running on grind, add the remaining oil slowly through the holes in the lid. Process on grind for an additional 10 seconds. Add nuts and pulse 10 times on chop to blend. 

Let the pesto sit for at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to develop.

August 17, 2009

Recipe: Banana Bread French Toast

What do you make with rotten bananas?
Duh, banana bread.

What do you make when you think banana bread is really unoriginal even if it tastes really good?
Banana bread french toast. Oo, la, la!

I used the most basic, classic banana bread recipe from Cooking Light (with half white flour and half wheat flour) and then the simple French toast recipe I picked up from my mom when I was like 12 years old. The Saturday morning treat proved more flavorful than my usual wheat bread French toast. Maple complements banana quite well, not surprisingly. But I think I still like plain ole banana bread the best.
Banana Bread French Toast

Banana Bread (1 loaf)

2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup butter, softened

2 large eggs

1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana (about 3 bananas)

1/3 cup plain low-fat yogurt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cooking spray

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt, stirring with a whisk.

Place sugar and butter in a large bowl, and beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 1 minute). Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add banana, yogurt, and vanilla; beat until blended. Add flour mixture; beat at low speed just until moist. Spoon batter into an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.

French Toast (1 serving)

2 slices banana bread (I like mine thin, but most recipes say you want thick, stale slices)

1 egg

3 tablespoons milk

Beat egg. Mix in milk. Dip bread in egg and milk mixture and coat well. Place on skillet over medium heat. Flip once bottom is golden brown. Brown the other side and remove to chow down. Serve with powdered sugar and/or syrup.