Tag: quick and easy

That Stuff is HOW OLD?

Behold the miracle of baking.
Hard to believe this came from some old bananas!

I’m ashamed to admit that I’m still dealing with perishable food salvage. In fact, I’m downright silly with it! It’s coming at me from all directions … the refrigerator … the pantry … and now, the freezer.

I’ve been talking a lot about what I’ve done with what’s come out of the fridge and the pantry, but I haven’t even touched on what’s in the freezer. Coming off of a long chain of holidays and family events has left me with more surplus than I thought was possible. And when I found the bananas in the freezer, I nearly threw them out.

But I’m no quitter! So onward and upward. And yes, I’m going to take the easy way out. Banana bread, mainly because it’ll freeze. Even though I’m using previously frozen bananas, the banana bread will still freeze.

Ingredients: Nothing fancy. Pantry staples and some thawed bananas, mashed.
All you need are your basic kitchen tools. But you can use your gadgets if you like.

In a large bowl, sift together the flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Do I HAVE to sift it?
Well, no, if you don’t mind these little wheat pellets in your batter.
See? Now, doesn’t that look better?

In another bowl, combine egg, oil, sugar, and milk. Whisk until smooth.

Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients, folding gently until well combined.

Add mashed bananas.

Consistency will be somewhere between a batter and a loose dough.

Fold in the nuts so that they’re evenly distributed.

Pour into a baking dish or loaf pan.

Bake at 350 F for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the middle.

Here’s the full recipe:

This takes about 15 minutes to prep and an hour to bake, give or take.

Banana Bread

Quick, easy, and delicious banana bread
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time55 mins
Course: Breakfast, Dessert, Snack
Servings: 16 slices
Author: okhomecookin

Equipment

  • 2 Mixing Bowls
  • Sifter
  • Spatula
  • Loaf pan/dish

Ingredients

  • 4 Bananas, over-ripe, mashed
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp light olive oil
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350 F.
    Coat a loaf pan with cooking spray.
    In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
    In a second bowl, lightly beat egg, then add milk, olive oil, and bananas.
    Make a well in the dry ingredients and gradually add the wet ingredients, mixing gently until well combined.
    Fold nuts into the mixture.
    Pour mixture into baking dish.
    Bake for 50 minutes to one hour, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the loaf.
    Remove from oven and allow to cool before slicing.

This freezes really well without getting super dry, so it’s a good loaf to cut into portions and store away for quick snacks. Seal it up in your Food Saver, store it in your Lock & Lock, put it in some Ziplock bags or wrap it in plastic wrap and use it within a month or so. Then, just take a slice out of the freezer and slide it into the toaster … or the toaster oven, or the air fryer, heat it in the microwave, let it thaw and eat it at room temperature or … I don’t know … do people eat stuff like this frozen?

You can also use these slices as a crumble on some nice warm oatmeal, put it on some ice cream or baked apples for dessert. Or you can also use it as layers for a banana pudding parfait. You’re only limited by your imagination.

Just a few extra notes …

First … TOAST YOUR NUTS! I can’t tell you what a huge difference this makes. It may seem way too fiddly and unnecessary but you’ll be SO glad you took the time. You’ve got to preheat the oven anyway, so just put the nuts on a pan and slide them into the oven for about 3 minutes or so (set a timer, don’t forget them, they burn fast). Let them bake until you can smell the warm nutty goodness of them. Then take them out and they’re much easier to chop when they’re warm. Let them cool while you assemble the rest of the ingredients.

Next – adaptations and options:

You can make this recipe gluten-free by using gluten-free flours instead of the usual all-purpose and whole wheat.

Make it Vegan

You can make this recipe vegan by using an egg replacer. Flax and/or applesauce might also work as a binder for this recipe. I haven’t experimented with that in this recipe, but I have had good success with applesauce and flax in similar applications.

About the milk, you can use whatever kind of milk you like or whatever you have on hand, dairy or nondairy. I used cashew milk because it’s what I had.

Also, if you’re going vegan with it, be sure you stick with the non-dairy milk like cashew milk (my preference) or almond milk. Coconut milk would also work and might add a nice bit of flavor to complement the banana. I understand vegans would know this but if you’re a non-vegan baking for a vegan, you might need the reminder.

Oil options

About the oil, you can use regular vegetable oil if you don’t have olive oil. You can also use butter BUT … I used olive oil in this recipe because it makes for a more moist consistency. My dear, departed Aunt Bernie was the QUEEN of nut breads and she never used butter, but always used oil. She told me that butter makes the loaf more dry and crumbly. I never doubted her but I DID make a nut bread recipe using butter just to see how much of a difference it made to the moisture and texture. No surprise, Aunt Bernie knew what she was talking about. That woman had bona-fide SAND when it came to baking.

I love flavored olive oils so I used a butter-flavored olive oil. I’m a flavor hound. If you’re interested in the flavored oils and don’t have a shop near you, you can find them in online specialty shops. Bertoli makes a nice, lighter-flavored olive oil, and it’s available in most grocery stores. And finally, Geoffrey Zakarian makes a really beautiful olive oil that he sells on QVC. I highly recommend his oils. I love them for pretty much everything I cook or bake that calls for olive oil.

Banana options

Now, about the bananas: if you use bananas that have been previously frozen as I did, set them out for a while. Once they’re thawed and right at room temperature, they’ll be fine to mash into the mixture. If you use bananas that have gotten over-ripe from sitting on the counter, that’s pretty much ideal. BUT, if you have bananas that aren’t yet over-ripe and you want to make this bread, no problem! Just put your fresh bananas, peel and all, on a baking sheet lined with parchment, preheat your oven to 300 and bake for about 15 minutes or until the skins turn black. Once they’ve cooled they’ll be the perfect consistency for the recipe.

Good to know

Oh, and one more thing: If you are on a low-salt diet, and you think you just won’t add the smidge of salt that’s called for, think again. I’ve learned a lot about the laws of kitchen science since I decided to become better than just OK, and those laws apply here. When you use baking powder in a recipe, you need the salt to activate the leavening agents (baking powder and baking soda). So don’t leave it out if you want that nice lift in your baking.

This recipe ticks a lot of boxes for me. It is fast and easy, uses up produce that might otherwise get tossed, easy to adapt to dietary preferences, makes a good-sized batch, can be frozen, has many possible applications beyond the slice, and it’s really super tasty!

I hope you like it as much as I do!

How Much Does It Make and … CAN YOU FREEZE IT?

In case you haven’t guessed by now, I’m an empty-nester … unless you want to count the dogs, of course. But when it comes to consumers of human fare, I have only one offspring who still lives nearby. He’s the sole beneficiary of what’s produced in my quest to become better than just OK in the kitchen. More accurately stated, he’s the only one around who’s constantly in the line of fire when I start pushing food. He’s a good sport about it, for sure, but when push comes to shove, I’m forced to accept the fact that my big-batch cooks were much more appealing when he was in college. Enter the freezer.

I often worry that my freezer is a kind of halfway house for food on its way to the bin. But the sad truth is that I’m still not accustomed to cooking smaller portions. And if I want to try making something new, it’s not uncommon for me to forget that I need to make 1/2 or 1/3 of the recipe. On top of that, sometimes it’s just too much trouble to do the calculations and pare down. This is one of those times.

I saw a coffee cake on TV last week that looked really delicious. It was a riff on those melted ice-cream cake recipes and I’ve been dying to make it. When I went to the store yesterday, I picked up a box of yellow cake mix and some coffee ice-cream, imagining how nice it would be to have a small smackeral with my coffee in the mornings.

As happens many times, I looked up the recipe online and felt overcome with disappointment. This was supposed to be a COFFEE coffee cake. But the only coffee ingredient was the ice-cream. Now, maybe it’s just me but when someone promises me coffee, I expect a pretty big flavor. I’ve made one of those ice-cream/cake-mix recipes before and found that the flavor of the ice cream alone just wasn’t enough to convince me that I was having anything other than a yellow cake. So I decided to come up with my own recipe, and I’m really glad I did. Here it is … my Triple Coffee Coffee Cake (aka Coffee CUBED).

This is a two-part recipe – part 1 is the cake, part 2 is the streusel.

TRIPLE COFFEE COFFEE CAKE

For the cake:

  • 1 box of yellow cake mix
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups melted coffee ice-cream
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 Tbsp. Kahlua coffee liqueur
  • 1 tsp. espresso powder
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
Ingredients for the cake.

For the streusel:

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 stick cold butter
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. espresso powder

Here’s what you do:

Preheat the oven to 350. Coat a 9″ square baking dish with cooking spray. I decided to do something a little more festive in recognition of the upcoming Valentine’s Day holiday so I used silicone cake molds. Those didn’t need to be coated. Next …

Cut the butter into cubes.

Make the streusel in a medium mixing bowl by adding the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and espresso powder. Mix together, then add the butter and salt. Combine until the butter is well incorporated into the dry mixture and it looks like fine pebbles. I used my Ninja food processor. You can use a fork, a pastry cutter, or your fingers, but I’m a gadget gal who’s sometimes impatient, so I took the short route to the finish line.

Ready to layer with the cake batter.

Next combine the wet ingredients (eggs, ice cream, Kahlua) in one bowl, and the dry ingredients (cake mix, espresso powder, salt) in another bowl.

If you have a mixer, feel free to use it. I have one but I always just use my Spurtles. It’s just as fast and hand mixing eliminates the possibility that I’ll overmix and my cake will be tough.

Next pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until well combined. You’ll see a few small lumps but don’t worry. It’s OK.

Then it’s time to layer the batter with the streusel.

PLEASE NOTE:

IF you are making just a regular coffee cake, in a baking dish, you’ll start with batter and end with streusel on top. BUT … if you are using a cake mold that will be turned upside down after the cake is baked like I did, then your first layer will be streusel and your last layer will be batter. You’re going to make 2 layers of each of streusel and batter either way you go.

I’m making smaller cakes in silicone molds.
I started with 1/4 c. streusel in the bottom of the mold.
Then I put a layer of batter over the streusel, about 2/3 cup. Then another layer of streusel. And I ended with a layer of batter. Streusel, batter, streusel, batter.

I thought this recipe would make 2 molds of cake. It made 4.

Put the cake/cakes in the oven and bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted. Mine took about 33 minutes. And the baking instructions are the same if you only do one cake in a larger pan/dish. But be careful about that, and remember that if you’re baking a single cake in a 9×9 (brownie-sized) dish, you’ll probably be OK. But if you’re baking in an 8×8 dish that is deeper, you may need more bake time. The deeper the dish, the longer it takes to bake.

Golden brown, light, fluffy, BEAUTIFUL!
If you’re using molds, turn them over on a cooling rack. And don’t jump the gun. Wait until they’re good and cool before you try to unmold.

As you can see from the photo at the top of the page, the recipe turned out pretty well. At least I think it did. The coffee flavor is definitely there. The streusel is nice and light with a good texture and not overly crunchy. I was a little worried about putting the streusel down as the first layer because I was afraid it might make the top of the cake either too oily from the butter in the mixture OR it might be too crunchy from the streusel being closest to the oven coil where it could get too much heat. But it really did turn out nicely.

The original recipe called for less coffee flavor, and more butter and flour in the streusel. I like my recipe better! Less flour, less butter, and a hit of espresso powder in the streusel mixture. I could probably have taken a whole teaspoon rather than 1/2. But it’s still good. It’s a fluffy cake, nice crumb, and it’s got a much richer coffee flavor than it would have if I’d gone with what I found online.

I’m calling this a success! Just keep your fingers crossed it’ll freeze!

NOTE:

  • If you don’t like using boxed mixes, you can certainly use the “dry” portion of a basic scratch cake recipe instead.
  • Want to make the recipe gluten-free? Use a gluten-free flour or cake mix.
  • If you want to make it dairy-free, use coconut yogurt instead of sour cream and coconut milk instead of the ice cream. You’ll also want to use an egg replacer.
  • For dairy-free streusel, try plant-based “butter.” Miyoko has a vegan “butter” on the market that actually tastes like butter.

This is a pretty adaptable recipe that I believe can work for most dietary preferences. Don’t be afraid to be creative and think outside the box!

Love For Leftovers

Initially, this post was going to bear the title “No Love for Leftovers,” because I have NO love for them at all. Fore me, leftovers for maybe one meal and then I’m SO done. I don’t like to think of myself as a food pusher but that doesn’t mean I’m not one. I feel great shame in admitting that when faced with having to eat my own leftovers, I do push food. My victims probably don’t like it any better than I do.

When my kids were in college, they were all about the leftovers. But now that they’re grown and enjoy cooking for themselves, the needle on the enjoyment meter points to “Not So Much” when they’re met with a teetering tower of plastic containers.

And so, dear readers, you may ask: “Then why not make smaller batches?” The short answer to that question is: I’m trying. The long answer consists of a walk through my personal history starting with my parents and grandparents who passed along well-established survivalist habits from WWI, WWII, The Great Depression and The Dust Bowl. It could be my genetics but I suspect that “nurture” trumps DNA all over the place. That makes the better question: “What ON EARTH are you going to do with all those leftovers?” Today, I have what I think is a pretty darned good answer!

Cauliflower Gratin!

This is so simple and fast you are going to drop your teeth! Using 4 ingredients (that’s right FOUR), I intend to whip up something glorious!

Remember the Potato Leek soup from day-before-yesterday? It was delicious. And I’ve had two meals of it which is my max. So today I’ll be using that, plus a small head of yellow cauliflower (another refugee from the fridge), PLUS some pita chips that have haunted my pantry for a couple of months (HOW LONG??? … yes, that’s right, but if you put them in a Lock & Lock container, they’d probably make it through the rest of the year), AND 1/2 cup of grated Gruyere (my favorite cheese).

Again, this is NOT vegan, but it IS vegetarian, and if you make that soup recipe with the suggested alterations, this CAN BE vegan (I have a substitute option for the cheese later on). So … here we go!

Cauliflower Gratin

  • 1 1/2 cups Potato Leek Soup (see 2/5 blog post)
  • 1 1# head of cauliflower (any color)
  • 1/4 c. bread crumbs (I’m using the aforementioned pita chips)
  • 1/2 c. grated gruyere

Preheat your oven to 375. This makes a smaller portion (surprise!), so I’m going to use my countertop oven to save energy.

This saved my bacon over Christmas when my oven went out!
Break the cauliflower into florets
Bring 4 cups water to boil, add florets, cook for 3 minutes til not quite tender.
Assemble the FOUR, count ’em FOUR, ingredients and baking dish.
Florets, soup, gruyere, “bread” (aka PITA) crumbs.

Again, this is the leftover Potato Leek Soup from Wednesday’s blog. I used my Ninja “Bowl” food processor to make the crumbs with the pita chips and I also used the Ninja for the cheese to save having to grate it by hand.

A small handful of chips yields about 1/4 cup crumbs, and 2.5 oz. of gruyere, blitzed in the Ninja, yields about the 1/2 cup suggested. You can always add more cheese, or use more crumbs, depending on your taste.

As I mentioned, this is a vegetarian recipe; however, to make it vegan, start with the soup recipe. Be sure to follow the conversion suggestions on that blog: Coconut milk/cream instead of heavy cream, vegetable stock instead of chicken stock, and plant-based butter/marg or olive oil instead of real butter. Alternatively, you can leave the fat out altogether and saute’ the veg in broth instead.

From there, continuing with the vegan alterations to the soup, to make the cheesy crumb topping, use your food processor to crumble up toasted cashews with nutritional yeast and there you have it … “cheesy” goodness. You won’t get the melt but the texture is still good. I also recommend making your own plant-based Gruyere to crumble over the top if you have the time. Miyoko’s Artisan Cheese book has a super simple process for doing it and it is fantastic!

Now, getting back to our cauliflower recipe …

Use 1/2 of the soup in the bottom of the dish.
If you don’t like the odd lump of potato, you can blitz while you have your food processor out.
Arrange cauliflower in dish.
Cover with the remaining soup.
Combine crumbs and cheese
Sprinkle crumbs and cheese over the top of the cauliflower.
Bake at 375 for 25 minutes.
BeeYOOteeful … GBD all over!

If you want a nice, neat slice, let it sit for about 15 minutes out of the oven. Otherwise, dig in.

For ONCE I didn’t make a huge batch and I am so proud of myself! Just shows to go ya (as my daddy woulda said) that you CAN teach an old dog new tricks! Just need to stay learned, is all.

This recipe serves 2-4, and if you want it as a side dish, it should make for about 4-6 reasonable portions.

I hope this inspires you to take a look at your leftovers and use your imagination. Get in there and think outside that box!

If you’re like me and you really dislike having the same thing 4 or 5 days in a row, this is a great way to save money, save time, use what you have in your fridge that might otherwise get thrown out (you can also use broccoli instead of cauliflower), practice your cooking skills, and discover some delicious food in the bargain.