Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Banana Spice Muffins

Why is it that no matter how many bananas we buy, we always end up with one or two that everyone says are too ripe to eat.  "Eeeww!  I'm not eating that!  It has brown on it!" is what I frequently hear when our bunch is down to it's last one or two fingers.  
Luckily, with bananas being one of our favorite fruits for a quick, pick me up snack, we have an abundance of banana recipes.  We love them fresh from the peel, in fruit salads, or mixed into a dessert or bread recipe.  We have yet to try the banana ice cream recipe, but Liv has it on her "one day I must try this" list!  

With our over-ripe banana pile growing, we knew today was the day to do something with them.  After perusing our recipe binder we decided on an old favorite... Banana Spice Muffins.  This recipe was a stand by when my son was 2 years old and became the world's pickiest eater.  He would eat just about anything banana, so I bumped up the whole grains by adding a bit of spelt or whole wheat flour, added some raisins and let him go at it.  I make these in the mini muffin pan for a quick snack to stop that afternoon stomach rumbling and I don't feel guilty eating them!  

Monday, June 28, 2010

Layered Greek Dip

I found this delectable recipe in 2008 on a Cooking Light Forum, posted by RecipeGirl.  She called it a "rather amazing Greek-style appetizer" and I must say that I and everyone who I have ever served it to fully concur!  This is one of those recipes that is a never fail hit.  It is often requested and the plate is always one of the first to be emptied.   Cutting the cucumbers, onions and tomatoes does take a bit of prep time, but the dish travels well, is visually appealing and gives you a serving of fruits and vegetables too!

I have used regular cream cheese, 1/3 less fat cream cheese, and low fat whipped cream cheese all with equal success.  The full fat cream cheese made no difference in taste and in our opinion was not worth the extra calories.   However, I don't think I would use non-fat.  The whipped cream cheese was far easier to mix, and made spreading onto the plate a snap.

Crisp Persian cucumbers add a nice texture to the topping, and heirloom tomatoes add a bit of a flavor explosion when they are in season. 

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Chocolate Wave Zucchini Bread

Summer always equals Zucchini!  While it might not actually feel like summer here in Carlsbad (we are deep into our annual June Gloom...), I am already receiving zucchini from neighbors.  My husband and kids are not big zucchini fans and will only do the side of grilled zucchini a time or two before I start hearing about it.  As such, I'm always on the lookout for zucchini recipes that are friendly for my family and that don't actually look like squash is an ingredient.  This combo bread fits the bill and is a hit with family and friends.  It has been a favorite in our household since 2001 and no one even knows zucchini is in it.   That means no complaining for me! 

The bread is a nice combo of regular zucchini bread with a layer of rich chocolate down the middle enhanced with a few chocolate chips.  The original recipe, that I have long since lost the source for, calls for walnuts, but the bread is just as wonderful with out them if you have some picky bread eaters like I do!  When I am in the mood for a slightly lower calorie count I substitute 1/4 cup of yogurt for some of the oil, and frankly I enjoy the tang that the yogurt adds.  All in all, the recipe is fairly healthy and a good use of all that ever present zucchini.  

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Corn & Tomato Salad

Happy Father's Day!  In celebration of Father's day we are hosting an afternoon with the Dads (and their families)...  My husband, my dad, my husband's dad, a neighbor dad, his dad in law, and another neighbor dad.  Thanks to my girlfriend's and mom's love of cooking we have put together a fantastic feast;  appetizers, fish, beef, salads, grilled vegies and a special chocolate birthday cake (made from scratch by Liv) in honor of my mother-in-law's upcoming birthday. 

After my visit to our local Farmer's Market I chose to make a Corn and Tomato Salad... always best when the corn was just picked yesterday!  This easy to toss together salad is always a hit at any gathering and works as a side to just about any main dish.  It's flavorful, fresh, bursting with summer taste gives it an all around appeal and the ease of putting it together appeals to my busy day.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Grilled & Stuffed Mini Peppers

Today is the first day of summer vacation!!  After two promotions (5th grade and 8th grade graduations) we are thrilled to enter a few weeks of no alarms, no school, no volunteering, and no homework.  To celebrate, we are opening the pool tomorrow for a "1st Day of Summer Break Swim & Grill".  As I was perusing my binder of favorite recipes, I came across this grilled pepper recipe from Cooking Light that has always been a hit and have it marked for tomorrow's festivities.

Graduation Day! 

As written, this recipe is made with jalapenos, but I have been using red, green and yellow mini bells that I find at our local Trader Joe's.  The three cheeses mix up into a nice creamy mixture with the tomato and sliced green onions adding a bit of texture to the tasty mix.  I love the ease of popping these onto a hot grill to get those most desired grill marks on the bottom as the cheese gets hot and "melty" on the top.  The original recipe calls for Parmesan cheese, but I have substituted grated cheddar or jalapeno jack with success.  I have also successfully subbed feta in place of the goat cheese. 

Happy summer to all...  We are hoping for some sun tomorrow to push away the Carlsbad June Gloom so our first summer weekend gathering by the pool can be without jackets!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Multi Grain Bread

Bread is my weakness!  I love it... all kinds of it, from crusty white loaves to soft seeded grains.  Warm from the oven, toasted, or sometimes just smeared with peanut butter.  There are not many breads that I will turn down, and this multi grain loaf is a favorite.  I have long since lost the name of the poster and message board where I found this treasured loaf recipe, but one of my scribbles on the page notes that the first day I made it was March 7, 2003.  Also among the scribbles regarding it's tastiness is a note that Liv and I made this loaf together on the day of her first conference in preschool.  I remember coming out of the teacher's classroom with a smile plastered on my face from the glowing compliments!

Among the other scribbles are notes that I made brown rice and froze it in 1/4 cup measurements for future uses, that on occasion I reduced the sugar "a bit" and that this loaf consistently rises well.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Chinese Chicken Salad

Continuing with our Asian theme this week, I easily put together this brightly flavored Chinese Chicken Salad from a Fine Cooking special issue (2008) for a healthy and filling dinner.  The baked wonton wrappers are well worth the effort in my opinion!  They cooked up quickly and crispy in just a few minutes and when combined with the toasted almonds added a wonderful crunch to the salad.  (I quickly polished off the leftover crunchy strips while cleaning up the kitchen!).  Chopped peanuts would be a nice addition if you prefer those to the almonds.  Substituting or adding vegetables that you have on hand would work for this salad as well.  I can easily see some brightly colored peppers, sliced asparagus, snap peas or quartered cucumbers tossed in with the cabbage and lettuce. 

While the original recipe called for bone-in, skin-on, split chicken breasts, I substituted chopped grilled chicken tenders that I happened to have on hand.  Any left over chicken would work well here, but  I seasoned mine with a bit of salt and garlic. 

The star of this salad is really the dressing!  I did decrease the amount of oil from the original recipe to 2 Tbs, and I think next time I may reduce it even further to a tablespoon and a half or so.  I also used ground ginger in place of the requested freshly grated (again... just what I had on hand).  My husband is a spicy guy and added a few tablespoons of Siricha Asian hot chile sauce to spice up his salad, but the recommended 1 tsp worked well for my more tender palate.

This bright main dish salad will become a welcome addition to our summer gatherings by the pool as the size can be easily increased to feed a crowd and could also be made vegetarian by simply omitting the chicken.  Definitely a keeper!  

Double Ginger Crackles

These tender cookies have become a favorite of mine!  They have a nice, warm ginger flavor with the tenderness and richness of butter.  Our family very much enjoyed them as a complement to the Korean Style Pork with Asian Slaw and then for days to come.   I watched them closely in the oven as they turned from a light golden brown to a bit overdone in a flash.  Removed at the proper moment, they are lightly browned on the bottom with a slightly firm bite that will melt in your mouth.  
Ginger is not high on my daughter Olivia's list and we all laughed after her first bite when promptly proclaimed "These cookies have too much taste for me".   The rest of the family enjoyed the flavorful treats with delight!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Korean Style Pork with Asian Slaw

My new Fine Cooking subscription provided this family pleaser! I am particularly thrilled as my family tends to have very different tastes. Yes... we have occasionally gone down that forbidden road of different entrees for different people, but in this case the flavorful, but not too spicy dish was a glorious hit all the way around!

The pork was incredibly tender and the slaw a nicely seasoned, slightly spicy accompaniment. Many times I am not a precise recipe follower as I frequently alter recipes (usually successfully!) with ingredients on hand, ingredients that are more appealing to me, or ingredients that are lighter or less caloric. This is one recipe that I made mostly as written, except for missing the part about reserving some of the marinade for sauce and adding a few sliced snow peas and red peppers.