Saturday, November 26, 2016

Excellent Banana Bread


This is the best banana bread ever, and fairly easy to make.

Ingredients:
  • 1 stick of butter, melted
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour (you can use ½ whole wheat or rye if you like)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup of full-fat Greek yogurt (use plain or vanilla – vanilla will make your bread sweeter)
  • 3 very ripe bananas
  • Some cinnamon sugar (Plain sugar is an option)


Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a standard loaf pan.

Put your bananas in a food processor or blender and blend until they are entirely puréed.

Next, separate your eggs. Reserve the whites.

Get a large bowl, and stir together the melted butter and sugar, along with the vanilla. Stir in the egg yolks.

Mix together in a smaller bowl the flour, baking soda, and salt. Stir this gently into the sugar and butter mix.

Now fold in the puréed bananas; fold in the yogurt.

In yet another bowl, beat the egg whites on high speed to stiff peaks. Fold these very gently into the batter.

Pour into the greased loaf pan. Sprinkle the top heavily with cinnamon sugar.

Bake at 350 for about an hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Eat with butter or plain, warm or cold. Also makes excellent PB & banana sandwiches.





Monday, May 30, 2016

Beef Stew (kind of)


This is like a beef stew. It's really stewed beef. My kid calls it "that meat thing," which I guess is as good a description as anything. It's a big favorite. Not very cheap, sadly.

Ingredients:


  • About a pound and a half of decent beef -- I use flank steak, or some cut like that
  • One onion
  • Three or four stalks of celery
  • Several dried mushrooms, whatever kind you like
  • One can of crushed tomatoes 
  • One can of beef broth
  • Spices -- I like fresh thyme and a bay leaf, pepper, and salt
  • olive oil, or some other good oil


Cooking:

(1) Cut up the beef into small pieces, like half-inch to inch cubes, somewhere around there. When it's all cut up, brown it in some of the olive oil over a medium heat. When it's all brown, skim out the blood and gunk. Pour in the can of broth, lower heat a bit, and simmer while you work on the rest of the recipe. Stir every now and then.

(2) Dice the onion. Put it in a different 4 or 5 quart pan with a little olive oil and cook over a low to medium heat, stirring frequently.

(3) Meanwhile, wash and cut up the celery. Cut it up nice and fine. Put it in with the onions to cook.

(4) Break up your dried mushrooms, and pour a cup of boiling water over them. Let them steep a bit.

(5) Once your onions and your celery are nice and soft, add the can of crushed tomatoes. Stir.

(6) Add your spices. Stir some more.

(7) Add that beef & broth mix that's been simmering away all this time. Stir some more.

(8) Add the mushrooms and the water they've been steeping in. Stir some more.

(9) Cover and simmer for three or four hours.  Taste toward the end, and adjust spices. You can add some more pepper if you like it spicy! I like to add some of this as well, about 1/4 a cup, but it's imported and very pricey -- you don't have to use it.


Serve over rice.  Very high in protein, and very tasty! I never have leftovers when I make this.




Thursday, May 19, 2016

Baps


I read about these in a British mystery novel, and they sounded so good I had to have some. Since I live in exile in Arkansas, this required that I figure out how to make them, and make them myself.
So: several hours of research and trial later, here is the bap recipe, adapted for Arkansas / American use:

Ingredients:

About 4 cups of King Arthur Bread Flour
2 tbs unsalted butter, softened
1.5 cups of milk
1 tbs sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tbs yeast


Method:

(1) Put two cups of flour in a bowl along with the 2 tbs of unsalted butter. Rub the butter into the flour until it is all mixed in.

(2) Add the milk, sugar, salt, and yeast, and mix – if you have a stand mixer, mix it in that.  Start out with the paddle and shift to the dough hook as the dough gets stiffer.  But you can also mix by hand.

(3) Add more flour, a quarter cup at a time, until the dough forms into a dense dough. Continue to knead until it is nice and springy.

(4) Put in an oily bowl and let rise until doubled in size – about an hour.

(5) Start heating your oven to 400 degrees F.

(6) Divide into eight pieces, and shape each into a round flat disc.  Place each on a greased cookie sheet – I cover my cookie sheet with a greased parchment paper. Cover and let rise for about 20-25 minutes.

(7) Bake at 400 until brown – about 15 minutes, maybe a little longer.

Eat with cold meat, or with jam, or honey and butter. SO GOOD.






Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Best Grilled Cheese Sandwich Ever

Not really cheap, though.  Sorry.

Ingredients:


  • Rye bread: Get good rye bread.  Here in Fort Smith, we buy Pepperidge Farm Seeded Rye unless Dr. Skull had baked some lately
  • Brie: again, get good Brie
  • Softened butter.  Use real butter, not marge.  I'm begging you. Have it at room temperature.

Use about two ounces of Brie for each sandwich.

Cut it up.  Cut off the fuzzy white crust, whatever the hell that is, I don't even want to know.  Feed it to the dog.

Put the soft white innards, the good bit, into the microwave for about 11 seconds, just enough to gooey it up.

Schmear it on one slice of rye bread.

(If you're that kind of person, you can schmear a little mustard in here too, or add a slice of ham.  But purists like just the cheese.)

 Cover with another slice of rye bread.  Schmear the outside of both sides of the sandwich liberally with softened butter.  Really get it on there -- you want it pretty thick.


Fry in a frying pan, like your iron skillet or whatever, at medium to medium high heat, until both sides are crispy brown.

Better than crack.




Friday, June 13, 2014

Shepherd’s Pie


This one is neither especially cheap nor especially easy.  It’s very tasty, though, and both your kids and your grumpy, picky, rich-kid husband will probably like it. You can use either beef or lamb, and you can use any sort of beef or lamb.  Traditionally, left-over bits of meat get used – it’s a way to use up scraps of meat – but I usually buy whatever cut of meat is cheapest and cut it into small cubes.


Ingredients:
  • About a pound of meat (beef, usually)
  • Some olive oil
  • One onion
  • A couple cloves of garlic
  • A little flour
  • One carrot
  • Two stalks celery
  • Some thyme, some rosemary
  • A cup of cooked peas
  • A cup or two of chicken broth
  • Maybe half a cup of Marsala wine (the good stuff) -- maybe more.
  • Salt, pepper 
  • Four or five potatoes
  • Milk & butter to mash them with with
  • About a half cup of your favorite cheese, grated (sharp cheddar works well)


First, dice the onion pretty fine.  Cook it in the olive oil over medium low heat in your biggest skillet (I use my big iron skillet) while you cut up the meat.  You want the meat in small pieces – about the size of beans, or a little bigger.  

Put the meat in with the cooking onions; stir it all with a wooden spoon.  Turn the heat up just a little so the meat will start browning.

Smash the garlic and cut it up pretty fine.  Put it in with the meat.  Stir some more.
Scatter a tablespoon or so of flour over the meat and onions and garlic.  Stir some more.

Peel and cut up your carrot.  Slice your celery.  Add both of these to the mix.  Now add the broth.  Stir some more.  Add some Marsala.  Stir.

Add your thyme and rosemary.  I use fresh because my local store sells fresh really cheap, and the fresh stalks are easy to pull out after.  Dry is nearly as good, so feel free to use that.

Add a little salt and pepper.  Don’t over-salt.

 Cook for about 40 minutes, stirring pretty often.  If the broth gets too thick, add some water and maybe more Marsala.

After 40 minutes, check to see if your meat is done.  It should be very tender.  If it is, you’re good.  If not, cook another 20 minutes or so, adding water (and Marsala!) as necessary.  Don’t add too much water – we’re aiming for a thick gravy-like consistency.

Mealwhile, peel and boil your potatoes until they are tender.  Mash with milk and butter.

Start pre-heating the over to 350.

When the meat is tender, add the peas to the mix and stir well.  Put in a pie pan or a casserole dish.  Cover with a thick (thick, thick) layer of mashed potatoes.

Using a fork, drag it along the surface of the potatoes, creating deep ridges.
Now scatter grated cheese over the top of the potatoes.

Put the casserole in a preheated 350 degree oven.  Bake for about 35 minutes.

Serve with a nice dark beer for the adults, and ginger ale for the kids.




Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Barley Soup


Good for cold weather, and relatively cheap.  You can double the quantities for more soup.

Ingredients:

  • a bunch of scallions
  • 3 or 4 cups Vegetable broth (canned if you don't have any frozen or fresh; you can use chicken if you prefer)
  • a cup of barley (this is sold with the cereal in my grocery, over by the oatmeal)
  • some dried mushrooms (I like shiitake)
  • 3-4 stalks celery
  • frozen peas
  • salt, pepper, thyme, a bay leaf

Cut up the scallions and the mushrooms.  Put them and the barley into the broth and cook until the barley is soft.  This will take about 15 or 20 minutes.  Put the bay leaf and the thyme in at this point too. 

I use a whole twig of thyme -- my store sells it fresh little packets pretty cheap, and then it's easy to fish out before I serve the soup, along with the bay leaf.  But you can use the kind that comes in the bottle, it's fine that way.  

If you're using chicken broth and you want to, you can add some chicken here.  I do this when I have leftover chicken.  

Once the barley is done, cook your peas while you cut up the celery.  Put the celery in the soup and cook briefly -- like two minutes.  Add the peas and stir.  Add salt and pepper.

Serve with good bread.

Nom.





Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Latkes

These are traditionally made for Hanukkah, a holiday when we eat greasy food, because of the miracle of the oil.  But you can eat them whenever!

Ingredients:
  • five or six potatoes
  • two or three eggs
  • either a grated onion or some onion powder
  • a cup or so of Matzo meal (If you can't find Matzo meal, you can use all-purpose flour)
  • salt & pepper
  • peanut oil for frying
First, peel and grate your potatoes.  Use an actual grater, not a food processor.  This is essential.  As you grate, put the gratings into a big bowl of icy cold water.  This is a labor-intensive process.  Drinking beer or rum & ginger while you listen to rousing music is helpful.

When they're all grated, dump them into a sieve, rinse, and refill the bowl with icy water.  Store the grated potato, covered with plastic wrap, for up to six hours in refrigerator.  We're soaking out the starch here, which is a key step.  If you don't have six hours you can skip this step, but you'll get better results if you include it!

Dump the grated potato into a sieve again, rinse, and squeeze out as much water as possible.  Return to bowl.

Mix in the eggs, the grated onion, the Matzo meal, and salt and pepper -- about a teaspoon of each.  You'll need to use your hands to mix all this up.  Don't be shy!  You're going to be using your hands in a minute anyway, to form the latkes.

Heat about a half cup of peanut oil in a big skillet.  More if your skillet is really big -- you need enough to put about a half inch of oil on the bottom.  Heat to medium high.

Form the potato mix into latkes, flat discs about as big as the palm of your hand, and as flat as you can get them.  Drop in heated oil.  Cook until crispy brown on both sides, turning once.

Drain on a big plate covered with paper towels.  You will enjoy this process a great deal more if you are drinking rum & ginger while you fry.

Serve with applesauce or sour cream (traditionally) or ketchup (drdelagar style).  Nom!