Banana Muffins

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

3 bananas, mashed

3/4 cup sugar

1 egg

1/3 cup butter, melted

You may also add 1/2 cup chopped nuts or chocolate chips

Optional topping of sugar and oatmeal

Preheat oven to 350F. Coat muffin pans with non-stick spray or use paper liners. Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside. Combine bananas, sugar, egg and melted butter, fold in the flour mixture and mix until smooth. Scoop into muffin pans, sprinkle sugar and oatmeal on top (optional) and bake 25-30 minutes. 

Pumpkin Bread

2 cups flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. ground cloves

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. nutmeg

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

2 cups sugar

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

2 eggs

1 15 oz. can of pureed pumpkin

Grease two standard size loaf pans.  Preheat oven to 325F. Combine flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and spices together in a separate bowl.  With the paddle attachment on a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar.  Add the eggs one at a time beating well.  Add the pumpkin.  Slowly add the flour mixture and incorporate.  Divide batter between the two loaf pans.  Bake approx. 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Remove and allow to cool slightly before removing from pans.

Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Granola Topping

Adapted from Betty Crocker

1 1/2 cups  whole wheat flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/4 tsp. kosher (coarse) salt
1 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
3/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup canola oil
1/2 cup water
3 eggs
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
Granola topping:
1 1/2 cups good quality nut granola broken up so there are no large chunks
Heat oven to 350°F. Place paper baking cup in each of 24 regular-size muffin cups or grease well if not using paper liners.
In large bowl, mix flours, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger; make well in center of mixture. In medium bowl, stir sugar, oil, water and eggs with whisk. Stir in pumpkin; add to flour mixture, stirring just until moistened. Divide batter evenly among muffin cups.  Sprinkle the granola onto the batter.
Bake 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes; remove from pans to cooling racks. Serve warm or cool.

Spicy Banana Bread

I usually put bananas that are starting to turn in the freezer.  When I’m ready to make banana bread, I simply thaw them or defrost in the microwave.  This is truly one of the best banana bread recipes I’ve ever come across.  I’ve been making it for years, so long so, that the page the recipe is on has turned brown!  It is dense and moist and keeps for days.

 

1/3 cup shortening

2/3 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 3/4 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1 cup mashed bananas (approx. 2 bananas – this is what I usually use)

1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F.  Prepare a loaf pan by coating with non-stick spray.  Cream the shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well.  In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and spices.  Add alternately with bananas to the creamed mixture.  Stir in the nuts.  Pour batter into pan.  Bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes or until skewer inserted comes out clean.  Cool and remove from pan.  Makes 1 loaf.

Pretzel Balls

 

1 pound store-bought pizza dough, thawed

1/4 cup marinara sauce

4 mozzarella cheese sticks

1/4 cup baking soda

1 egg (beaten)

1 tbsp. pretzel or course sea salt

Preheat the oven to 425 F.  On a floured surface, cut the dough into 16 even small balls.  Cut the mozzarella sticks into fourths for a total of 16 pieces.  Working with one ‘ball’ of dough at a time, press an indentation into the ball, spoon about a tsp. or less of marinara sauce into the indentation then press in a cheese cube.  Fold the dough over the filling and pinch the ends tightly together.  Place aside and repeat with the remaining dough balls.

Prepare a baking sheet by lining with parchment paper.  Heat a large pot of water and bring to a boil.  Add the baking soda.  Boil the pretzel balls in small batches for about 30 seconds or until they float.  Transfer with a slotted spoon to the baking sheet.  Brush the tops of the boiled balls with the beaten egg and sprinkle with the salt.  Bake for approx. 15 minutes or until golden brown.  Be careful not to over-bake.  Cool slightly before serving.

Serving suggestion – serve with a mustard cheese dip or a nacho cheese dip!

 

French Toast Bake

 

This is a recipe with a lot of wiggle room when it comes to the type of bread used.  I like to use a raisin cinnamon, but have also used a pumpkin spice.  Either way, this is a great breakfast for a weekend treat or on a cold morning.  Plus to up the ‘easy factor’, it is assembled the night before, then just pop into the oven in the morning.

1 loaf of Pepperidge Farm (or your favorite brand) raisin cinnamon bread

3 cups 2% milk

8 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

2 tbsp. sugar

Cube the bread and place in a greased casserole dish.  Mix the remaining ingredients together and pour over the bread cubes.  Be sure to coat completely.  Cover and place in the refrigerator overnight.  Bake in a 350F oven for 45-50 minutes.  The bread will puff up.  Bake is done when a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  Optional – sprinkle 3 tbsp. sugar mixed with 2 tsp. cinnamon over the top before serving.  Serve with maple syrup.

Breakfast Clafoutis

I like to make this on weekend mornings.  It can be made with any variety of berries and has a very egg-y, puffy consistency.  It will puff up while baking and slowly ‘deflates’ as it is being served.  This recipe will serve 2-4.  I usually double the recipe to serve my family of 6.

4-6 ounces cranberries, blueberries or raspberries

zest from a small lemon

4-6 tbsp. sugar

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/4 tsp salt

2 eggs

1 cup milk

1 tbsp. unsalted butter

Heat oven to 425 degrees.  Mix the lemon zest with 2 tbsp. sugar in a small dish, set aside.  In a large bowl, sift together flour and salt.  In a small bowl, beat the eggs and whisk in the milk.  Add wet to dry ingredients a little at a time, whisking until smooth.  Stir in the lemon sugar.  Set aside to let the batter rest.

In a 10″ ovenproof nonstick fry pan, melt the butter over medium heat, coating the bottom and the sides.  When the butter is bubbling, add the fruit.  Stir until each piece has softened and is coated with butter, about 2-3 minutes.

Sprinkle in 4 tablespoons of sugar.  When the sugar has dissolved and turned into a syrup, stir the batter and pour over the fruit.  Bake 20 minutes until golden brown and puffed up at the edges.  Remove from the oven and serve immediately.  Sprinkle with a sifting of confectioners sugar.

Irish soda bread

 

If there is one food I can’t resist, it is definitely irish soda bread.  The subtle sweetness, the texture, just everything about it keeps me whittling away at a loaf sitting on the counter.  This recipe comes from a dear friend that puts a fresh baked loaf in my mailbox every St. Patrick’s Day.  It has become my favorite.  Traditionally baked in a round form, this recipe does well in a regular loaf pan.

3 cups flour

5 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

3 tbsp. Crisco shortening

1 cup sugar

1 cup milk

1 egg

1 cup raisins

1/2 cup golden raisins

Preheat oven to 375F.  In a medium bowl blend together the dry ingredients.  Cut in the shortening.  Add sugar.  Mix thoroughly.  Beat the egg and mix with the milk.  Add this to the dry ingredient mixture.  Batter will be stiff.  Add the raisins and incorporate well.  Sprinkle top with a few teaspoons of sugar.  Turn into a greased loaf pan.  Bake at 375F for 35 to 40 minutes, until lightly golden on top.  Allow to cool before removing from pan.

This recipe can also be divided among mini loaf pans to share with friends or freeze for later.

Focaccia

Herb, Olive and onion Focaccia

I’ll admit, this recipe is quite long, but don’t be daunted, it will take you through each step thoroughly.  This recipe comes from one of my old Food and Wine magazines.  I love to make this on one of those ‘stay at home’ days, when I can just relax and cook.  You’ll be amazed by the results!

Makes a 17 x 13″ Focaccia

3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing

1 cup (packed) minced yellow onion

2 medium garlic cloves, minced

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil

1 tbsp. minced fresh thyme

2 tsp. minced fresh rosemary

Freshly ground pepper

1 1/2 cup lukewarm water (105 – 115 degrees)

1 cup lukewarm milk (105 – 115 degrees)

1 scant tablespoon salt

2 tsp. plus a pinch of sugar

1 1/4 ounce envelope active dry yeast

About 6 1/2 cups flour

Cornmeal for dusting

Coarse salt, for sprinkling

1/4 cup ice water

Topping:

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 large medium yellow onion, cut into thin wedges and separated into strips (3 cups)

2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 tbsp. finely chopped mixed fresh herbs (I use Herbs de Provence)

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

12-15 oil cured olives, pitted and halved

Herb, Olive and onion Focaccia

Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over moderate heat. Stir in the onion and garlic, reduce the heat and cook until softened and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the herbs and a generous amount of peppeer and cook for one minute. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Stir in 1 cup of the water, then the milk, salt and 2 teaspoons sugar.

In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast and the pinch of sugar in the remaining 1/2 cup lukewarm water until creamy and starting to bubble. Add to the onion mixture. Stir in the flour, 1 cup at a time, just until the dough becomes too stiff to stir. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. With the help of a dough scraper, knead in only as much additional flour as necessary to keep the dough from sticking. Knead the dough until smooth, supple and elastic, about 5 minutes. *This process can also be done in a Kitchen Aid mixer with the dough hook attached.

Generously grease a clean large bowl with olive oil. Transfer the dough to the bowl and turn once to coat with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel. Set aside in a warm draft free spot until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.

Punch down the dough. Re-cover the bowl and let the dough rise again until doubled, about 1 hour.

Brush olive oil over the bottom and sides of a 17 x 13 x 1″ black steel or heavy aluminum baking sheet. Sprinkle cornmeal on the pan then tap out excess.

Punch down the dough and turn in out onto a cornmeal dusted work surface. Turn the dough over and over to coat lightly with cornmeal and shape into a rough rectangle. Lift the dough and place in the prepared pan. Gently pull, push and pat the dough so it fills the baking sheet. Let the dough rise uncovered in a draft free spot until billowy, 45 minutes to one hour.

Meanwhile make the topping – Heat a large, deep skillet over moderate heat. Add the oil and onions, reduce to low and cook until the onions are slightly softened. Add the garlic and cook until softened but not brown. Add the mixed herbs, season with coarse salt and pepper and cook for one minute. Set aside to cool.

When the dough has become billowy, spread the onion topping over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border. Make many indentations through the topping with your fingers. Arrange the olive halves decoratively on the dough and sprinkle coarse salt evenly all over the top.

Preheat the oven to 450F and position a rack in the bottom third. Place the baking sheet in the oven, toss the ice water on the oven floor and bake the focaccia for about 30 minutes until the edges are crisp and a deep golden color. Using a long metal spatula, slide the focaccia onto a large rack to cool.  Cut into pieces with a serrated knife. Enjoy!

Spinach Roll-Ups

Lasagna noodles aren’t just for lasagna. They can be used in many creative ways. Try this recipe for a sure ‘cold day comfort food’ pleaser.

One package traditional lasagna noodles (not the no-boil type)

2 boxes of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained to remove excess moisture*

1 large container ricotta cheese

3 eggs

1 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 tbsp. dried basil

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 – 2 jars of canned pasta sauce – or homemade if you prefer

Boil the lasagna noodles until al dente.  Drain and set aside.  Mix all remaining ingredients except the pasta sauce together well.  Place a lasagna noodle on paper towel to remove excess moisture.  Spread the cheese/spinach mixture along the noodle (see picture).  Roll up and place in pre-greased casserole pan.  Repeat with all the noodles.  Cover with the pasta sauce.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake at 350F for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and top with more sauce if desired and cook another 15 – 20 minutes.

*Here’s a tip for removing moisture and quick thawing frozen spinach.  Place the frozen spinach in a non-stick fry pan and cook over medium heat.  The spinach will thaw and the excess water will absorb away for perfectly dry spinach.