Wordless Wednesdays

Friday, March 9, 2012

Going Bananas

Dear friends, gather 'round. I'm going to tell you a story. A little bit closer. Okay, that's good. Ready? Here we go.

Once upon a time, there was a gal named Mary who had this dreadful habit of buying too many bananas from the grocery store. Every. Single. Week. Without fail, too many bananas. Well, this past week was no different. EXCEPT...Mary went bananas and bought even MORE bananas than her usual surplus. And since Mary is of the very strong opinion that there is a 12-hour window in which to consume a perfectly ripe banana (just descending from greenness), it became quite apparent that drastic culinary measures needed to be taken. And so...she went bananas.

First, there were New England Banana Muffins.

Do not let their rustic appearance fool you. They are delicious, hearty, and even healthy. We love them for a special breakfast treat.

And then there was the classic Banana Bread (I omit the candied ginger and the nuts) from my dear friend (who does not even know I exist), Molly Wizenberg. Somehow I managed to take absolutely no pictures whatsoever of the Banana Bread. No matter. I'm quite sure I've posted pics of the banana bread before. And lastly (but not leastly- HA), there were Brown Butter Banana Bread Cookies from my new best friend (who also has not the foggiest idea who I am), the Iowa Girl from the Iowa Girl Eats blog. You know when you start a recipe by melting and browning and entire stick of butter, there's greatness just around the corner.

I must admit, I was a little leery of such a strong combination of spices- a teaspoon EACH of cinnamon, cloves, AND nutmeg- whew!!

But you know what? It was perfectly lovely. I LOVED the spiciness of these cookies. In fact, I loved it so much, I forgot to take pictures of the finished product. AGAIN. I'm such a responsible blogger. Well, you can click on the link and enjoy all of Iowa Girl's great pictures to go along with the recipe. A word of caution concerning these cookies: Do. Not. Underbake. Because of the cake-like texture, they need to be fully, fully baked. It's not like a chocolate chip cookie, where you actually want to ever-so-slightly underbake them, then allow them to set on the cooling rack. Nope. I had the misfortune of slightly underbaking one cookie sheet of these, and they were definitely a wee bit soggy on top. The second cookie sheet was perfectly done, and they were delicious; soft, slightly puffy, and infused with all of those wonderful spices. I didn't even make the frosting and they were still such a treat. AND GUESS WHAT? After all of my crazy banana-ness, I had only one rotting banana left, so I happily stuck it in the freezer for a future smoothie. No waste- YES.

The moral of the story is this: When you accidentally buy too many bananas at the grocery store, simply go bananas. Now what on earth am I going to do with those three overripe bananas sitting on my countertop...will I ever learn, dear friends? Probably not. Here's the recipe for the New England Banana Muffins.

New England Banana Muffins- adapted from "Mad About Muffins", by Dot Vartan

1 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. wheat germ
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 c. granulated (or brown) sugar
1/4 c. melted butter
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 medium bananas, mashed
4 tablespoons whole milk
4 tablespoons 100% pure maple syrup (Keep it real here, folks. NO AUNT JEMIMA.)

-Heat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Mix in the sugar.
In a large bowl, combine the melted butter, beaten egg, vanilla extract, bananas, milk, and maple syrup and beat with a fork until well blended. Stir the banana mixture into the flour mixture, just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Spoon the batter into greased muffin tins. Bake 18-20 minutes or until the muffins are lightly browned. Serve warm. Makes one dozen muffins.

We just love these, and I hope you do, too. :-)

What are your favorite ways to use up ripe bananas? Cakes? Pies? Bananas Foster? Do tell!

Friday, March 2, 2012

It's Pizza Night!

It's Friday night, and I couldn't be happier for a multitude of reasons, the top two being:

1) It's the end of Steve's work week. Although the last two weeks have been better as far as his long hours are concerned, it's still such a lovely feeling to know that the work week is OVER!
2) Friday nights mean...(drumroll) PIZZA NIGHT!!!!

And it's quite difficult to be sad on Pizza Night. I mean, who doesn't love pizza? The crust! The sauce! The endless possibilities!! Oh, pizza. I do love thee. Pizza is one of those rare foods that I could eat a few times a week, provided it's a slightly different pizza experience each time. This may or may not stem from the fact that I spent my youth living in a north suburb of Chicago with easy access to outstanding Chicago-style pizza, and let's face it: You simply cannot beat Lou Malnati's deep dish style pizza (with butter crust!!), topped with their insanely zesty pepperoni. It is worth the wait, every single time. Each time I sink my teeth into a Lou Malnati's pizza, I am overcome with the rich cheese...the oh-so-flavorful sauce...the spicy pepperoni...and the crust, people. THE CRUST. I find myself silent with adoration for a few minutes...and longing...oh, and the fact that I CANNOT talk because my face is completely stuffed full of pizza. Let's be real here. But really, if you haven't been to a Lou Malnati's pizzeria, you really need to add that to your culinary bucket list. I mean that from the bottom of my heart. Get a babysitter, grab your I-Pass, and go HERE:

Please. Do yourself a huge favor and order the deep dish style with BUTTER CRUST. It's life-changing, my dear friends. It really is. And worth the wait- every single blessed second.

And now...

Because I cannot afford to eat at Lou Malnati's every week...

I present to you...

My take on pizza night.

Every Friday afternoon, I pull down the breadmaker from its shelf, gather the ingredients, and get the pizza dough started for our pizza night. The boys love to help, and I've been making pizza dough for so long now that I have the recipe completely and utterly memorized. May I suggest that if you do not have a family pizza night to please consider starting a new family tradition. It's such a comforting event to look forward to, and the kids absolutely love it. There is nothing quite like knowing, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that dinner will be a hit with each and every member of the family. And so, without further ado, here is the recipe:

Homemade Pizza Dough- very slightly adapted from the Toastmaster Breadmaker recipe booklet that came with the breadmaker, and I'm sorry I have no other way of describing it.


3/4 c. warm water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon dry milk
2 1/4 c. flour (I use all-purpose, unbleached flour)
1 tsp. active dry yeast (not quick-rise)

Place all ingredients (in the order listed) in the breakmaker bowl thingie. Press the "Dough" setting, and go conquer the world! Just make sure you do it in one hour and twenty minutes. Well, that's how long the dough setting is on my breadmaker. When the blessed machine sends forth an obnoxious flurry of BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP, you know it's time to make some pizza, baby!

Homemade Pizza

1) Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2) Grab your favorite pizza pan (I have a large, vented metal pizza pan that I really like), and spray it liberally with crisco spray or whatever floats your boat.
3) After spraying the pan, liberally sprinkle cornmeal over the prepped pan.
4) Do not skip steps 2 and 3. Please trust me on this.
5) On a well-floured surface, roll out the dough, and remember- it doesn't have to be perfect!! Throw that dough on the pizza pan, and gently stretch it/ press it to fit the pan.
6) Now for some fun! Spread approximately 1 c. of your favorite pizza sauce over the dough (I love Dei Fratelli pizza sauce), sprinkle a very generous amount of mozzarella cheese, then shake a bit of dried oregano over the cheese, then add as few or as many different toppings as you'd like! We love pepperoni, green peppers, onions, mushroom (well, I LIKE THEM), etc. You are only limited by your imagination. SO...be imaginative!
7) Place in oven and bake for 12-14 minutes.
8) Let cool for a couple of minutes before slicing. ENJOY.

And there you have a ridiculously simple homemade pizza recipe. So go forth! Start a delicious new tradition! Let's hear it for PIZZA NIGHT!

Do you have a weekly dinner "special"?

Have a lovely weekend! :-)