Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Mummy's Banana Bread

Good lord- has the early spring been crazy busy for everyone else, or is it just me??? They say that life with a baby can move at warp speed, but I really didn't think time could go by quite as quickly as it has been in the last few months- wow! 

Just a quick update on our boy- Will is on the cusp of the nine month mark, and he continues to grow and amaze us every day. Having mastered crawling, he is on the move all the time these days, and I wouldn't be surprised if walking isn't too far away, since he lives to pull himself up on various items and use them to work on his stepping skills. 

This baby update isn't just a shameless bragfest about my little fella, since as Will continues to grow and change, he has become a more adventurous eater (not surprising, given his genetic disposition!). As a result, I find myself with a renewed sense of motivation in the kitchen, and a I've started testing out various recipes with him to see what he's into. This new rebirth of my culinary endeavors has also been compounded by the fact that we purchased a share in a  CSA (that's Community Supported Agriculture) through Covey Rise Farms started up last week, so I have been working to find new ways to bring out the wonderful produce we're getting from the program. We found out about the farm from their partner, Covey Rise Lodge, a fantastic hunter's paradise that my father-in-law discovered on a visit, and a place we keep going back to for a fun afternoon of clay shooting. So, be on the lookout in the future for posts highlighting our amazing CSA produce (as well as the stuff we're growing here in our backyard- check out The Humble Home), I'm really excited to see what the season brings! 

One thing I've found that Will adores so far is my mother's banana bread recipe. I have long loved this wonderfully tasty bread, and you can imagine how thrilled I was to find out that Will was just as enthusiastic about it. It's a great way to use up bananas that have gone a little past peak, and the addition of Grapenuts gives the bread a wonderful texture and body with a subtle brightness from the lemon zest. The original recipe called for just white flour, but I've been subbing in 3/4 cup of whole wheat flour for a little added boost. I usually take the sugar down to about 1/2 a cup as opposed to the 2/3 cup the recipe calls for, but you can adjust to your taste. 

For Will, I make these as mini muffins (omitting the nuts for his share, but adding it in for the 1/2 half), and it makes a perfect pan of 24 minis. They're a great size for him, and it's easy to throw a couple in a snack bag to take with us on adventures down to the park. Baked off as a loaf, the bread makes for a great hostess gift or contribution to a potluck. The bread also freezes well in either form, and is a sinch to throw together- this morning's batch I just whipped up while the boy was taking his morning snooze. 

Big thanks again to my wonderful Mummy for this family favorite that has already made a friend in the newest generation of foodies!

Mummy's Banana Bread

- 1/3 Cup butter, softened
- 1/2-2/3 Cup sugar
- 3/4 Tspn lemon zest
-  1 Egg, beaten
- 1 3/4 Cups flour (I use 1 c. white a 3/4 cup whole wheat)
- 2 Tspn baking powder
- 1/4 Tspn baking soda
- 1/2 Tspn salt
- 1 Cup mashed banana
- 1/2 Cup chopped walnuts (optional)
- 1/2 Cup dried cranberries
- 1/2 Cup Grapenuts
* about 1/2 Cup milk

Preheat oven to 350. Cream together butter and sugar, add in lemon zest and egg. Sift dry ingredients together and stir into wet. Add in bananas and mix well. Add in nuts, cranberries and Grapenuts and mix well. Thin dough slightly with milk, until consistency is smooth, but still thick. Spoon into mini muffin or bread pan. Bake muffins for 30 mins, and bread for about 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Grapefruit Cake

Happy 2012! We are finally back in our little abode after a whirl-wind tour back up North with family and loved ones, and are settling back in to our mellow day-to-day life. 

As with many fellow bloggers, I vow to get more posts up this year, as last year had such an extreme (yet understandable) drop off in my postings with the birth of our darling son. Now that we are settled and moved in down here in sunny Louisiana, and our traveling should calm down for a while, I am going to hit the ground running! 

When we returned from our holiday travels last week, we found a bag of beautiful, fresh grapefruit waiting for us on our doorstep. Our very charming elderly neighbor had left them from us, as he has a huge grapefruit tree out in his front yard. We've been enjoying the delicious fruits just as is, in smoothies and as fresh juice, but there were are still a few left that I wanted to find a way to use up. In keeping with my recent foray into Southern-inspired cooking, I remembered catching a broadcast of Paula Deen making a grapefruit cake, so I hopped online and found the recipe. While the cake recipe itself looked fantastic, I wasn't overly excited about the cream cheese frosting- which is a 180 from my usual behavior! Few are the times that I have turned down am opportunity to make (and eat!) cream cheese frosting, but for some reason the pairing didn't seem quite right on this one. The cake appeared to be light, fluffy and delicate in taste and texture, and I thought that the cream cheese frosting (and food coloring???) would weigh it down, so instead I went with a simple grapefruit glaze. I also doubled the amount of  grapefruit juice and zest called for in the recipe, since I had an abundance of both, and  the batter seemed a bit dry before I folded in the egg whites, so I just went for it. 

The cake is wildly easy to put together (even for a novice/nervous baker such as myself), bakes up in about 25 minutes, and has a delightfully fluffy texture, much like an angel food cake. I thought the glaze was a perfect compliment to the clean flavor, and I'm thinking next time I might do supremes of ruby red grapefruit simmered in simple syrup to dress up the top a bit. Do follow Paula's advice, though and be sure to line your cake pan, as I thought I could get away with not doing it, and removing it was a bit dicey!

 It's the perfect cake for tea, as a light desert, with a scoop of good vanilla ice cream, or really anytime- I'm enjoying a slice now while watching the BCS Championship and snuggling with the babe! 
Gratuitous photo of my sous chef- doing a bang up job of being awesome.

Paula Deen's Grapefruit Cake (from pauladeen.com)
For the cake:
-1 1/2 Cup cake flour, sifted
-3/4 Cup sugar
-1 1/2 Tspn baking powder
-1/2 Tspn salt
-1/4 Cup water
-1/4 Cup vegetable oil
-1/2 Tspn fresh grated grapefruit zest (I used 1 Tblspn)
-3 Tblspn fresh squeezed grapefruit juice  (I used about 6-7 Tblspns)
-3  Egg yolks
-3  Egg whites
-1/4 Tspn cream of tartar

For the glaze:
-2/3 Cup confectioners sugar, sifted
-3 Tblspns fresh squeeze grapefruit juice
-1 Generous tspn fresh grated grapefruit zest

Preheat oven at 350 degrees. Line cake pan with waxed paper and spray with nonstick oil. 

Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a mixing bowl. Make a well in the center for dry ingredients. Add water, oil, zest, grapefruit juice and egg yolks. Beat until smooth. Beat egg whites and cream of tartar separately until whites are stiff but not dry. Gradually fold egg whites into flour mixture with a rubber spatula until just blended. Do not stir the mixture. 
Pour batter into prepared cake pan. 
Bake for 25 minutes or until cake springs back when gently touched with a finger. Invert pan on cake rack to cool. Run spatula around edge of cake. Carefully remove from pan and place on platter.

Whisk together confectioners sugar, grapefruit juice and zest. Drizzle all over cake and allow to drip down sides. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Creole Red Beans & Rice

That's a big ol' pot of love, folks

Well, try my hardest, I didn't quite make my goal of getting a post up this weekend, alas! In part, I actually blame this recipe for my delay, since I was doing my best to take down an entire pot of this tasty Louisiana treat before the week- another goal I didn't quite get to. But I digress. Since moving down here and getting settled, I've been really excited to sample all the local flavors and start working on my own versions of them. So far, my favorite two have been red beans & rice and shrimp po'boys, both of which I have been tinkering with in the new Humble Kitchen (look for a Roasted Shrimp Po' Boy to be appearing soon!). 

Much like a lot of the food that I love to cook and share, this Louisiana staple has its roots in necessity. Beans (either dried or tinned) are a very inexpensive staple, as is plain and simple rice. Naturally, red beans & rice is a great go-to dish that is wildly satisfying to the soul, and also a comfort to the wallet. Since I am now a stay at home mama, I am not only charged with taking care of our little love, but also taking care of my big love and making sure that they are both well-fed. The babe is pretty easy, so most of my food focus is on keeping Kyle and I well fed on a very tight budget. So after a little research (mostly on Epicurious and Food Network as well as the back of the bag of small red beans I purchased!) I started to piece together my recipe from what I had on hand, and what I could spend out of my budget. My method for rehydrating the beans was done somewhat out of error (I had meant to soak the beans overnight, but forgot the night before), but I think it still turned out very well, just be sure to start the beans early in the day if you plan on having them that night, or keep it simple and do an overnight soak. 

I've got to take a moment and give a little respect to the guy manning the meat counter at our local Albertson's- not only was he incredibly knowledgeable about their offerings, he had a lot of great suggestions for how to use their various meats & fish offerings-  very inspiring! It's amazing to walk into a run of the mill grocery store and be greeted by such a beautiful meat/fish counter with so many offerings from local sources, truly awesome!

I'm not sure exactly how "authentic" my red beans & rice came out to be, but I feel confident that it was a good representation of the local flavor. It's a great way to stretch your dollar and fill hungry bellies without feeling like you're skimping. 

Red Beans & Rice (pieced together from sources noted above)

-1 lb bag of dried small red beans, picked over & rinsed
- 3/4 lbs fresh cajun sausage (Andouille works very well)
- 3 stalks of celery with leaves, washed & diced small
- 1/2 a sweet onion, diced small
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced fine
- 3 tbspns Creole seasoning (I used a mix of "Slap Ya Mama" and "Cajun Land")
- Louisiana hot sauce (I used Crystal "Extra Hot"), optional
- Sea salt & fresh cracked black pepper
- Olive oil

-1 cup long grain rice, prepared to package instructions

After picking over and rinsing beans well, combine with six cups of water and a hearty sprinkling of salt in a Dutch oven and bring to a boil. Lower temp to just barely simmering, cover almost full with lid (leaving a small opening for steam to escape), and leave beans to fully soften- about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally. If liquid level drops below beans, add more water accordingly. When beans are fully cooked, mash about half the beans with a potato masher or a large wooden spoon- this will help thicken the liquid and give a great texture to the final product. 

In a large saute pan over medium heat, add sausage and a little water (1/4" or so) and steam until sausage is cooked through (if working with pre-cooked sausage, skip this step). Remove sausage from pan and pour off water. When cool enough to handle, slice sausages into diagonal rounds. Return pan to stove, add a light coating of olive oil and saute sausage rounds until golden brown. Transfer sausage into Dutch oven with beans and stir to combine. Add a little more olive oil to the pan and saute celery and onion (1/2 a green pepper diced up is also a great addition if handy) until softened and onions become translucent but not brown. Add in garlic and continue to cook an additional 2-3 minutes until fragrant. Season vegetables with Creole seasonings to taste, and add into bean & sausage mixture. After combining all elements, check for seasoning and adjust accordingly, adding additional Creole seasoning, salt & pepper and hot sauce if using. Allow mixture to come together over low heat for a couple of hours if possible- the longer, the better!

To serve, ladle beans over servings of cooked white rice, and serve with hot sauce, ice cold beers and big hunks of french bread for sopping up the sauce. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

I'm Not Dead Yet!

Wow. May 13th, huh? Yikes, it has been a while! I apologize profusely for being beyond MIA over the past 6 (!!!) months, but I am slowly but determinedly working my way back to blog-dom. As many of you know, our beautiful son William Harvey came into our lives on July 23rd and we are just overcome with love and adoration for this little guy:
My absolute most favorite picture of my favorite little fella

In addition to the most incredible and terrifying new title of "mama", we also pulled off the impossible and survived the 1600 mile move down to Louisiana with all members of the family surviving in pretty good spirits. Kyle is really enjoying his new job, we've settled into a lovely little house on the Northshore of Lake Pontchatrain and we're really digging our new surroundings. 

So- now that we are settled and we've got our parenting feet a bit more under us, I have returned to the kitchen with a vengeance! On top of having this lovely new house (no more apartment living for us, which is a bit bittersweet), our kitchen came with a fabulous gas range- YESSSSSSSSSSS. Really, is there anything better? As I type this quick update, I'm watching my little lovie take in a snooze while the aroma of my first attempt at real Louisiana red beans & rice waft over from the kitchen. Awesomeness. So let's do this thing- I'm back, I have a couple of great back-logged recipes and entries to get up on here and I'm hoping this weekend should provide some time to get back to my other love and share my kitchen adventures with you all. If you've hung around waiting for me to come back, thank you so much for your loyalty, you make a gal feel truly humble. If you've somehow just recently come across this blog, welcome friend and I hope you stick around and enjoy the new adventures of The Humble Table.


Friday, May 13, 2011

White Chocolate & Dried Cranberry Cookies

I’ve had this post half started for a couple of weeks now (what up, slacker), but somehow keep losing my train of thought, or get distracted by some sort of shiny object, whoops! I don’t have anything particularly earth shattering to say about how these cookies came about other than I had a pregnancy fueled cookie craving (or at least that’s what I’m blaming it on!), a giant bag of dried cranberries and some white chocolate chips on hand. Interestingly enough, I couldn’t find any recipes for cranberry-white chocolate cookies, so I went to the old standby- The Joy of Cooking- and scanned the cookie recipes for something that would fit what I was looking for. The recipe for White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies had all the right things I was looking for and with a little modification for what I had on hand, I got the perfectly satisfying cookie I was looking for without having to leave the house to hit up the grocery store or bakery, and all was right in the world.

I’m a huge fan of the dried fruit/chocolate combination, and the tart, chewiness of the cranberries balanced very well with the smoothness of the white chocolate. I was happy that they also go the seal of approval from my husband (a true connoisseur of baked goods), as well as the boys at my all male office. I can usually tell when a baked good goes over well if the tin is empty before 1PM, and one of my bosses was sniffing around for extra cookies well before that time.

White Chocolate & Dried Cranberry Cookies

(recipe modified from The Joy of Cooking’s White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies)

-- 2 ½ Cups all purpose flour
 - 1 Tsp. baking soda
-- 1 Cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
-- 1 1/3 Cups organic white sugar
-- 2/3 Cup packed light brown sugar
-- 2 Large eggs
-- 1 Tsp. vanilla
-- 1 Cup dried cranberries
-- 1 Cup white chocolate morsels or coarsely chopped white chocolate

Pre-heat oven to 350. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Whisk together flour and baking soda. Set aside. In a large bowl, beat butter and both sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add in vanilla and mix well. Stir in dry ingredients until well incorporated. Add in cranberries and white chocolate. Spoon generous teaspoons of dough onto cookie sheets (about 1 ½ inches apart) and bake for 15-18 minutes. Transfer to wire rack to cool. 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Shrimp & Grits with Mushrooms, Leeks and Bacon

I am in love with the fact that second trimester has not only been extremely kind to my body, but has also marked the triumphant return of my insatiable appetite! While I have to pace out my eating a little more with smaller meals every couple of hours as opposed to plowing through a couple of giant sittings, I am thrilled to be enjoying pretty much all of the things that I love that caused for some rumblings early on in the pregnancy.

Our impending move South now only a matter of months away (five actually, woah!) combined with the slow arrival of more spring-like weather has me craving seafood. What better way to satisfy my cure something from the briny deep and prepare for Southern living than to try my hand at Shrimp & Grits! After cautiously easing into the Southern staple a few postings ago, I felt confident to take it on again.

When we first moved to town and I was on the hunt for a job, I decided to volunteer my time at the library of a local yacht school in an effort to meet some people and do something positive with my idle hands. Although I no longer volunteer there, I met Jill, one of my favorite people in Newport. About once a week after our shifts at the library we would wander down to The Pier, a restaurant just behind the library and enjoy their ½ price happy hour appetizers and drinks. It was always a great excuse to relax and gossip (as if we hadn’t already done that enough!), and we would occasionally drag our husbands along with us. Being a creature of habit, I would almost always order their Shrimp & Grits, and this recipe is based off of The Pier’s take on this classic dish. So while I am not yet immersed in the Southern culture, I feel myself getting more and more excited to enjoy all of the flavors that Louisiana has to offer, and to taste this classic comfort food as prepared by the folks that put it on the map!

It’s a pretty simple dish to pull together, and I recommend frying off your bacon first while you cook the grits (as I mentioned in my last post about grits, they’re pretty resilient and can hang out on a very low burner for a while), then putting together your mushroom & leek sauté and finishing up with the shrimp to ensure that they don’t overcook. This recipe could easily serve four for dinner with a big green salad and a crisp white wine- I made it for just the two of us, and we had the second half the next night.

Shrimp & Grits with Mushrooms, Leek and Bacon (as inspired by The Pier)

For the Grits:

Depending on the type of grits you are using, follow package instructions for four servings, or use my directions posted here, omitting the ricotta, parmesan and nutmeg. Once grits are fully cooked, stir in 1 tbspn butter, and slowly add in a generous ¼ cup freshly shredded sharp cheddar cheese. Season well with salt & pepper and set aside, covered over very low heat.

For the Shrimp:

- 1 lb. 16-20 count fresh, wild caught shrimp with tail on
- 4-5 Slices thick cut bacon, diced
- 1 Leek (medium size), sliced thinly and cleaned (see my note on cleaning here)
- ½ Package of Baby Bella mushrooms, sliced
- 1 Large clove garlic, minced
- ¼ (ish) Cup seafood or chicken stock
- Handful of flat leaf Italian parsley, chopped
- Sea salt
- Cracked black pepper
- Seafood seasoning (think Old Bay)
- 1-2 Tbspn butter
- Extra Virgin olive oil
- ½ Lemon, cut into wedges
- Hot sauce (optional)

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat, add in diced bacon and cook until crisp and fat is rendered. Remove bacon from pan and drain on paper towel. Reserve 1ish tbspn bacon fat in pan, lower heat to medium add in butter and a couple of turns of olive oil. While oil and butter come up to temp, season one side of shrimp lightly with salt, pepper and seafood seasoning. Once pan is heated, add in mushrooms and season lightly with salt & pepper. Saute, stirring until mushrooms begin to release liquid, about 2 minutes. Add in leeks and continue cooking while stirring occasionally until leeks begin to soften, about 4 minutes or so. Once leeks have fully softened, add in garlic and cook just until garlic is aromatic (a minute or two). Push mushroom/leek mixture to the edge of pan (see picture) and place shrimp into pan, seasoned side down. Season exposed side of shrimp with salt, pepper and seafood season and allow shrimp to cook, undisturbed for about 2 minutes or until bottoms just turn pink. Flip shrimp and cook an additional 2 minutes or until just cooked through. Stir shrimp, leeks and mushrooms together, and add in about ¼ cup of seafood stock and parsley. Allow to simmer for a minute or two and reduce.

To plate: Pile grits in the middle of a shallow bowl or dish and top with leek & mushroom mixture, and top with 4-5 shrimp running down the middle. Sprinkle crisp bacon on top and serve right away with lemon wedges and hot sauce on the side. Also pairs great with a light summer beer and a comfortable porch table!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Black Walnut & Chocolate Chip Banana Cupcakes

Mmmmmm…fresh baked cupcakes. Is there really anything better? Ok, how about a good, healthy smear of homemade cream cheese frosting on top? Happiness? Yeah? Me too.

Prior to becoming pregnant, I had a minimal sweet tooth- a cookie here and there, the occasional small serving of ice cream or maybe a little cake on special holidays. Now that I’m encroaching on 3rd trimester, I find myself with ridiculous cravings for sweets- not all the time, but with enough frequency that I find myself wandering over to the kitchen cabinets and seeking out some satisfaction. Rather than pick up a box of store bought cookies or cupcakes, I’m trying to stick with treats I make at home. This way, I have to really think about the craving and decide whether or not it’s something I absolutely have to satisfy, or there is another way to stave off the beast. Home baked treats are also great, since I can pack up the second half of whatever I make and bring it into my office or send it to the ship with my husband, which not only keeps me from eating six cupcakes for dinner, but also wins me some points with the boss. Win-win in my book.

I have had a HUGE craving for cream cheese frosting for quite some time now, and finally caved late last week under the guise that I would be making the cupcakes for my husband who was coming back to port after being out to sea. Funny enough, he was so kind as to inform me over the weekend that he was not a huge cream cheese frosting fan. Whoops- more for me! I am a cream cheese frosting lunatic, and after a little playing with the proportions on the original recipe, I found my frosting nirvana by cutting back the powdered sugar, upping the vanilla and adding just a hint on nutmeg. Bliss!

I’m not sure that these little baked treats would completely qualify as cupcakes per se, as they are really more of a banana bread/muffin/cupcake hybrid, but I could not in good conscious refer to them as muffins after I layered on a heavy dose of cream cheese goodness. So, cupcakes it is! I picked up the base recipes for these insanely easy treats over on allrecipes.com, and tweaked it a bit with things that I had on hand for a really satisfying little treat. These could easily be converted back into the more healthy land of muffins by switching out some of the regular flour for whole wheat, trading the butter for applesauce, omitting the chocolate chips and forgoing the frosting (eek!). I’m sure the day will come when I’m interested in lightening them up, however, this was not that day!

Black Walnut & Chocolate Chip Banana Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
(original recipe here)
Makes 12

-1 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour
-1 Tspn baking powder
-1 Tspn baking soda
-1/2 Tspn salt
-3 Large bananas, mashed
-3/4 Cup organic sugar
-1 Large Egg
-1/3 Cup butter, melted
-1/3 Cup black walnuts, roughly chopped
-1/2 Cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin pan(s) with liners. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt- set aside. Combine bananas, sugar, egg, and melted butter in a large bowl. Fold in flour mixture, and mix lightly. Add in walnuts & chocolate chips and mix lightly until smooth (do not over-mix!) Scoop into muffin pans and transfer to oven. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Cakes should spring back when lightly tapped. Remove from oven, take out of muffin pans and let cool on a wire rack.

Cream Cheese Frosting
(original recipe here)
-1 8oz. Package of cream cheese, softened
-1/4 Cup butter (1/2 stick), softened
-3/4 Cups sifted confectioners' sugar
-1 Tspn vanilla extract
-1/2 Tspn fresh grated nutmeg (optional)

In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter until creamy. Mix in the vanilla, then gradually stir in the confectioners' sugar and nutmeg.

Once cakes have cooled, coat well with frosting and enjoy!