Banana Muffins

Banana muffins! I haven’t made banana muffins in years. I like bananas on the greenish side so I bought a bunch of bananas last week that were green – still deep, hard, kermit the frog, green. I was hoping they would ripen in time for breakfasts during the week but they didn’t get to be edible until Thursday – which meant I was stuck with them over the weekend and I never eat bananas on the weekend. Not sure why, it’s just a weekday breakfast thing. Froze them and voila! Today I had the chance to do something with them. Delicious muffins.

3-4 mushy bananas
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup melted butter
Mash and mix.

1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.

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Real tomato sauce

What sorcery is this!? I’m sure trained chefs must know this secret because it makes lame tomato sauce taste like restaurant tomato sauce, and sometimes even better. With a dash of red wine, this would be just plain marvelous. I guess I’ll settle for deep-fried tomato paste.

Yes, you read that correctly. But not in the crispy-battered sense, more in the saturated-in-olive-oil-and-cooked-until-all-sweet-and-rich-and-delicious sense.

1 can of tomato paste
1/2 same amount of olive oil
(or 2:1 put plainly.)
Put in a sauce pan on medium heat and simmer until it caramelizes and begins to brown.

Add it to prepared tomato sauce (or make your own) to make the flavours really deep and delicious, or use it alone. I won’t judge.
Add a few heaping teaspoons of oregano, marjoram, a little salt and pepper, to taste, and a few spoonfuls of this magical paste.

It also makes the sauce cling to the pasta so you get a nice balanced mouthful instead of eating wet, naked pasta and chasing spoonfuls of runny sauce around your plate (although, it helps if you drain your pasta properly and only cook until al dente too).

I have to thank Bon Appetit (Oct 2012) for this one again. The magazine that keeps on giving…

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Nutty Crunch Bread

This recipe has always been a favourite in our family. My mom would make it every now and then but consistently enough that it feels like home. Recently, she decided that she had made it often enough and didn’t really need the dirty old newspaper clipping from the 1974 Ottawa Citizen and was probably best to be rid of it! Alas, we thought it was gone for good.
About three weeks ago, I decided to clean up my own mess of recipe clippings at home and as it turns out, I wrote it down some time ago ­čÖé So here it is, nearly 40 years later, still as tasty as ever.

2 1/2 cups milk
1 cup wheat germ
1 cup oats
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 pkgs yeast (about 2 1/4 tsp equals one package)
1/2 cup honey or molasses
1/2 cup oil (I like grapeseed)
3/4 cup sesame seeds
4 tsp salt
3 cups whole wheat flour
5 1/2 cups all purpose flour

Heat milk, stir in wheat germ and oats. In a second bowl, add warm water, brown sugar, and yeast. Let soak ten minutes. To cereal mixture, add honey, oil, seeds, salt, and yeast liquid. Mix well and stir in whole wheat flour. Add 4 cups all purpose flour to form dough. Flour kneading surface and turn out dough. Knead in remaining flour. Cut dough into four pieces and shape into loaves. Place into four well-greased loaf pans and let rise about 2 hours in a warm place (until just above the rim of the pan). Bake at 350F about 30 minutes.

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Vanilla syrup and extract

Since I had an excuse to buy vanilla beans to make vanilla creme anglais, I have developed a bit of an infatuation with vanilla. I’m more of a savoury person than sweet, so I’ll hold off changing my blog to ‘vanilla fields’ for now, but it’s close… And believe it or not, the cheapest place I’ve found to get whole vanilla beans is at our homebrew shop. So the experimenting begins…

I started last night with vanilla syrup – you know that stuff you buy at Starbucks for $10! Yeah, it’s sugar and water with a bit of flavour. Most recipes called for vanilla extract rather than whole beans but I thought I’d try using beans for the visual effect. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stay emulsified but you do get pretty black specks in your latte. My french cooking teacher would probably be appalled and you could opt to strain them out, if you really so desired, but I like them.

Syrup:
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise and the seeds scraped

Place all three ingredients into a small saucepan and simmer until the sugar dissolves. Let cool. You can bottle it right away or let it sit overnight. If you do strain out the seeds though, give it at least a day or longer to let them infuse. It wasn’t very vanilla-y last night but today it’s much better already.

Now, what to do with those leftover, beautiful, flavourful beans!? Well, I’m glad you asked.
Another trick from my french cooking instructor is 40 used vanilla beans to 1 litre of vodka makes the purest vanilla extract. I don’t know how many of you would actually go through 40 beans or need a whole litre of extract but it’s something you just add pods to each time you use them. I am starting with only 375ml and will aim for about 15 pods.

A tea latte, for anyone who still hasn’t had one – half steeped tea (usually earl grey), half steamed milk, 1 oz. vanilla syrup.

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