Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Cranberry Banana Bread and the First Snow Fall in Fall 2014

I baked for fun today so that was probably why I woke up at 5 a.m. We are also trying to clean out the freezer so we are eating leftovers from who knows when and hence the baking. Brad loves bananas especially in the summer with his bike racing. Even when I raced, I would crack on bananas. The bananas would ripen quickly or it would be too warm to eat them. I bought a bunch of bananas almost every week. I cracked this summer and it wasn't even a hot one. So every couple of weeks I had to throw bananas into the freezer. The count is 15 bananas! I baked a Caramel Banana Bread last night and baked a bunch of Cranberry Banana Muffins and Bread.

Since this was the first time making the recipes, we cut into the breads and muffins. And we actually finished off one of the caramel breads from yesterday. Thank goodness the recipe made two breads. Today's Cranberry Banana bread only made one loaf but there was a lot of fresh cranberries and sugar water left over so I could not let it go to waste. I doubled the recipe based on how many cranberries were floating in the sugar water and I made muffins. Usually when one bakes a banana bread of some kind, the temperature should be 350 F and baked for 50 to an hour long. When baking muffins, turn the heat up to 375 or 400 F and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.

I tried to follow the recipe but I messed up the first part when I boiled the fresh cranberries. It called for one cup of water and I used two by mistake. At that point I altered the recipe by adding vanilla extract. Otherwise, I followed the recipe. Except for the glaze. I did not have Grand Marnier so I used rum. And it did not quite turn out to be a glaze because I did not use all the sugar it called for. Then I wasn't sure if I wanted to use the "glaze" because it was very rummy. But my taste tester liked it so I used it on the bread and some of the muffins. I figured the muffins could be frozen and the glaze would add some moisture to them when we would pull them out of the freezer months from now. Newman! I forgot we were trying to empty out the freezer.

I don't like to let anything go to waste so I am sipping the cranberry sugar rum "glaze". Mmmm. Interesting. I might need to add one more tablespoon of rum and an ice cube. Although, it is nice at room temperature as I watch the snow fall. It was great to hang out in my baking pjs all day except for our little excursion to support the oldest farmers market in the U.S. this morning.

We did not need anything; I just love the idea of having a farmers market two miles from my house. We bought eggs, purple Brussels sprouts and carrots. The purple sprouts were planted in July and the Amish farmer told Barr's that it would be purple cabbage!! I trimmed the stalk and had a few raw purple, Brussels sprouts and they were tasty. I cannot wait to make dinner as we are having Carr's crab cakes, jasmine rice with cumin seeds cooked in chicken broth and the purple Brussels sprouts.

Ack! I have one more item to bake - the Apple Walnut Crumb Pie. I made the crust this morning and tried blending the vanilla wafers and walnuts together in the blender and that did not go well. Ober said I should be using the food processor which I forgot we had. And it doesn't work well either, so I just used the blender as I dirtied it already. Although, I had to separate the wafers and walnuts and ground the nuts in my second coffee grinder. I just thought I could throw them all in my vintage, Osterizer blender.

All this baking was killing my left, rotator cuff so I started mixing with my non-dominant, right arm. Right, I do not own a KitchenAid. I fantasize about owning one but we don't have a place to put it and I don't bake that often to spend that kind of money. Thank goodness I have all day to bake because it took me forever to mix with my non-dominant arm and I made a mess at the same time. Awesome! Flour, bananas and cranberry juice everywhere.  

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

No Substitute for Butter

It is that time of year again.  Time to bake and cook as the sun sets earlier and Thanksgiving is a few days away. I probably have about 20 frozen bananas in the freezer so I flipped through some cookbooks for some recipes.  Yes, cookbooks.  I did surf the Internet but I have some go to recipes and cookbooks and had the time to pull out the books.

I have written about the Main Line Classics II (The Junior Saturday Club of Wayne) cookbook.   I decided to try a different banana bread recipe that called for a lot of bananas and the Caramel Banana Bread was the winner.  I followed the recipe about 95% as I dumped about a cup of pecans into the mix.  Oh my goodness, the recipe said serves 16 but they way we slice up the bread in the Oberte household comes out to maybe 8 to 10 servings!  When you pour butter and sugar over anything, and broil it to a crisp, it is heaven.  So I guess I have to dig through the freezer and sift through the cookbooks for some more recipes so we don't go to the Ober's empty handed for Thanksgiving.

2 cups unbleached flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs, beaten
5 ripe bananas, mashed
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup buttermilk

Caramel Topping-melt butter in saucepan; add sugar and milk; cook until mixture is syrupy.
6 tablespoons butter
10 tablespoons packed brown sugar
5 tablespoons milk

Sift flour, baking soda and salt together. Cream butter and sugar in mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs; mix well. Stir in bananas, vanilla and buttermilk. Add flour mixture gradually, beating well after each addition.  Pour into 2 greased and floured 5x9-inch loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes or until loaves pull away from sides of pans.  Cool completely.  Pour Caramel Topping over bread; broil for 5 minutes or until tops are bubbly.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

A Beautiful Spring Morning - May 17, 2014

One would think I could have continued writing with the winter we had.  Almost ninety percent of the East Coast had a weather-related delay and one did not have to be working for an educational institution.

We started our winter traveling for snow in New Hampshire over Christmas.  We had a grand time skate skiing almost everyday.  The snow and our cabin's fireplace was comforting.  When drove home on January 1, 2014, that was the start of many snow falls for the winter of 2014.  Fortunately we had equipment to create our little community, cross country skiing center at Overlook Golf Course.  We skied as much as we could; morning, noon and night as the snow delays and closures were blessings.  Then the winter freeze came-temperatures in the single digits that we had not experienced in twenty years and for an extended length of time.  If we did not have cross-country skiing, the winter would have been unbearable and we would have gained 20 pounds, too.

Spring has finally sprung.  April had its moments of spring and surprises of warm summer days but the trees, flowers and shrubs really haven't bloomed and shown colors until May.  Through the sounds of lawn mowers and leaf blowers, we hear the wind, watch the trees dancing in it and name the bird calls.  I am grateful for it all; pollen covering everything, stuffing up my nose at times, the sun warming me on the front porch on a cool morning, the bird songs entering my dreams at 4:30 in the morning, calling me to wake.  We wake with nature - it is such an extraordinary way to start the day.

Monday, December 30, 2013

The recipes

Here are the necessary ingredients for the Colombian hot pockets and Argentina empanadas.

Arepas de Huevo (Egg-Stuffed Corn Cakes)

2 cups precooked white corn flour, preferably Harina P.A.N.
1½ tsp. kosher salt
1 tbsp. canola oil, plus more for frying
8 eggs
Hot sauce, for serving (optional)

See the previous posts on how to make both these recipes.

Empanadas de Carne (Beef Empanadas)

1 cup water
¾ cup lard
2¾ cups flour, plus more for dusting
2 tsp. kosher salt

⅓ cup olive oil
1 lb. boneless beef shoulder, trimmed and finely chopped
Kosher salt, to taste
1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and finely chopped
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
1½ tsp. ground cumin
1½ tsp. Spanish hot paprika
1 tsp. crushed red chile flakes
½ tsp. ground white pepper, plus more to taste
2 eggs, hard-boiled, peeled, and finely chopped

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Completed Empanadas

Well, the dough was stiff.  Since it was just flour, water, lard (but I substituted solid coconut oil) and salt, I set out to make them.

I made two and baked them to see how they would turn out.  If they sucked, we would have a beef mixture for Argentine tacos.  :-).

Again, they did not look great but girl, they tasted yummy!!  So the other eight empanadas are in the oven baking!! I would recommend making the dough when you are ready to bake the empanadas.  Do not let it sit in the Fridge for days.  And the filling tasted pretty authentic.  No need to add cheddar cheese to add flavor.  We like the coconut oil, too.  Yum.  Time for another.

Empanadas de Carne

I have been hankering for empanadas lately so I decided to make my own.  Again, the latest edition of Saveur had an article called lunch at your leisure and empanadas was one of the food items.  Tuesday I prepped the dough so it would have time to chill.  Then I realized it was cleaning day and I hate greasing up the kitchen just after it has been cleaned.  So I blew off a run date (I did have the excuse of snowy, icy weather...) so I quickly drove to market for red peppers.  Yes, that was all that I was missing from my Fridge.  Ugh.  I usually have red peppers so - whatever.  I drove to market.

It was amazing how fast I chopped everything up and fried it in the iron skillet - getting grease everywhere.  Luckily I did not chop any fingers into the mix.  The dough looked great and the filling tasted okay.  It did not taste as yummy as the Puerto Rican, or Colombian or Spanish empanadas I have eaten so I am not sure what is missing as I did not have a chance to compare the other version's recipes.  I will look into it when I do get to make the Argentine version.  I was going to make them Tuesday night and I already forget what happened but it is now Friday and I must them.  The dough is on the counter - actually it is in a cabinet - warming up because it got hard in the Fridge.  If I left it on the counter, my cats would have devoured it as they did the raisin cinnamon swirl bread the other day.

Hopefully I can quickly make some Argentine empanadas like a Rachel Ray show then roll out on the pub cruisers for a First Friday Redux.  The real First Friday in December was a bust because it poured cats and dogs and it sounds like no one when out because Lancaster City is "re-doing" First Friday celebrations and shopping tonight.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Maybe I need to buy a fryer...

Another year has gone by and I did not renew my vows of blogging.  Here I am making a mess in the kitchen wanting to share it with the world.  I have to admit Facebook has crimped my blogging as it is easy to post a picture and make a brief snarky comment about it.  It has allowed me to not be my reflective and philosophical self.   There is always time to start again, right?  Isn't that what New Year's resolutions are for? I just happen to start in December.

Winter forces me to slow down and rejuvenate and it was the off season for me as an athlete.  Although I have not been racing since 2010, I still think of the end of the year as the off season.  Others would say every month has been the off season for the last three years.  My excuses for not consistently blogging... I think I wrote about going back to school (graduate work) in the end of 2009 so that consumed most of my time until the summer of 2013 when I finally earned my masters in education in sport management.  Also, I continued to work out when I could but I directed my attention to school and beer tasting!  I enjoyed a beer or glass of wine in the off season when I raced bicycles but I did not make it a habit, hobby or obsession as it has become in the last few years.  I can blame my obsession with beer on many things.  Mostly good things.

One, I stopped racing which for some doesn't have to happen to enjoy a beer or two.  Two, over the last six years, Lancaster, Pennsylvania exploded with many great places to eat and drink and to partake in the arts. The city organized many events that has revitalized the area and Millersville University's presence downtown has added more cultural activities, too.  Three, I must admit work, school and life got a little hectic and I looked forward to that glass of wine (or beer) after work.  But it wasn't just about taking the edge off.  I enjoy analyzing a beer or glass of wine.  The smell, colors and taste; where it was produced and the story behind the it.  When we travel, we love to eat and drink locally.  What does all this have to do with buying a fryer?  What does this have to do with blogging?  The kitchen makes me reflect on what is important in life. It reminds me to let go, to be flexible and everything does not have to be perfect.  Sometimes priorities have to shift. When one has seen my creations in the kitchen, perfection and beauty is not my strong suit yet the majority of the time they taste awesome!!

So the fryer...I do not own one because I am afraid we would eat too much fried food.  I read an article in my favorite magazine, Saveur, called Hot Pockets.  Arepas de Huevo, fried cakes of corn masa stuffed with soft-cooked eggs.  Brad and I salivated on the way home from Crisfield, MD, one Sunday afternoon as I read the article twice, then I read about Abanian baked lamb and rice and yogurt and also about pecans and Miss American pie (salted caramel apple is on the baking list).  I finally found the corn flour.  Actually, it wasn't hard to find.  It was at our local Grocer (Giant), I just kept forgetting to look for it.  I had all the ingredients packed as we were heading to Crisfield for the weekend and there is not much to do there except drink and eat (cook) and relax.  Crisfield is a fishing town and there is not much happening, especially in the winter.  But the weather and sickness canceled the trip. Arepas de Huevo!

The first mistake was not having enough canola oil.  If I had enough canola oil, maybe I would not want a fryer.  I knead the corn flour, salt, oil and water.  The oil heats up in the iron skillet and I test the heat with a wooden spoon. The corn cakes looked good and fried up okay but where I messed up is with the oil.  I did not have enough canola oil so I had to add olive oil and olive oil eventually burns and smokes up the house. And I did not want to use too much oil because I had to use olive oil and I thought I could get away with less than two inches of oil in the skillet.  So the corn cakes did not get cooked all the way through.  Then I could not slice the corn cake to crack an egg in it and fry it again.  Since that happened, I improvised and cooked the eggs separately and plopped them on top of the corn cakes with salsa verde and hot sauce.  Bummed I could not recreate the Arepas de Huevo but my creation still tasted awesome.  I will attempt to make these again with enough canola oil.