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Archive for March, 2012

Ali and I always tell Chris he would make a good bartender.  When he asks why, the answer seems obvious to me: he’s so sociable.  Somehow every time he takes the garbage out, he makes a new friend!  (Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but he’s definitely more interested in meeting our neighbors than I am haha!)

He befriended a middle-aged couple from across the courtyard awhile back, and decided we should make them some baked goods to bring over so he could introduce them to us.  I decided on banana bread because he had a few old bananas in the freezer waiting to get used up, and we already had all of the ingredients on hand.

I swear by my Grandma’s banana bread recipe.  Since it calls for sour cream, the bread always comes out dense and moist.  Which is NOT true of other banana bread recipes I’ve tried!

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts, optional (walnuts or pecans please!)

Here are my little pearls of wisdom:

  • Use regular sour cream, for goodness sake.  You’re already consuming a cup of sugar and a stick of butter, so why would you try to save a few calories with the fat free stuff?  As a rule of thumb, I never cook with fat-free or reduced fat dairy products unless the recipe specifically calls for it.
  • I’ve taken to making this recipe with whole wheat flour.  Either 1 cup each of whole wheat and white, or the full 2 cups of a “white whole wheat” I bought at TJ’s.  It doesn’t change the texture much (if at all), but if it worries you, add a few extra dollops of sour cream.
  • Four good-sized bananas will yield enough for this recipe.  A little extra won’t hurt, either 😉

Mix everything together, and baked in greased loaf pans at 375 for 30-40 minutes.  I use one batch to make two loaves; I have rather large loaf pans, so my loaves are short and fat.  I suppose you could put this in one large loaf pan and just bake a little longer to get a full-sized loaf.

As with many quick bread and muffin recipes, I think this tastes best after sitting for a day.  Although, I definitely sneak a chunk hot out of the oven and slather it with butter.  And how did our neighbors enjoy it?  They knocked on the door the night we dropped it off to tell us that it was delicious 🙂  Maybe I’m not so bad at making friends after all!

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Citrus Pecan Salad

Valentine’s Day this year fell during a week at work when we were particularly slow.  We all had to attend an in-service for a couple of hours in the morning, but I wasn’t scheduled to “work-work” until mid-afternoon.  Once our meeting was over, a coworker suggested we go have lunch, and of course I said yes.  Turns out my single-self had a V-day date after all, haha.  Her boyfriend thought it was cute too 🙂

As I’ve mentioned, the hospital is surrounded by delicious dining options.  Another coworker highly suggested Jack n’ Jills Too, which is literally just across the street.  Also, any restaurant whose website declares crepes and BBQ as their first two servings is pretty much a winner in my book.  It was just around 11 a.m. when we walked in, so breakfast or lunch was acceptable, and let me tell you…for not being a breakfast person, the Nutella crepes were sure calling my name.  Of course, having eaten Nutella crepes on the shores of the French Riviera makes me a little skeptical of American offerings, but that isn’t why I decided against them that day.  That reason would be their Citrus Pecan Salad.

I’m addicted to fruity salads.  Not fruit salads, though those are perfectly good too.  But those fresh, summery salads covered in berries, oranges, apples…you get it.  Cafe Hollander back in Tosa had a ridiculous summer salad.  When I paired it with a slab of grilled salmon and a couple of their Belgian beers, I was a happy girl.  JNJ’s version sounded pretty awesome: mandarin oranges, Granny Smith apples, candied nuts, Craisins…bleu cheese, grilled chicken… 😀  So I went for it, and oddly enough paired it with some French-pressed coffee (side note: theirs was awesome!).  I was NOT disappointed.  I ate every last bite of it, and will have a hard time trying something new if I eat there again soon!

Naturally, I wanted to be able to duplicate this at home.  It would take some work.  First I needed to find a recipe for candied nuts, and second, I needed a recipe for a citrus vinaigrette.  Pinterest failed me pretty badly in my search, so I resorted to Google, and settled on a recipe for each that sounded appropriate.

My original salad was described as follows: “Field Greens, blue cheese, mandarin oranges, avocado, candied pecans, almonds, granny smith apple, cranberries, golden raisins with our famous citrus vinaigrette. Topped with grilled Chicken breast.”

I’m not a huge avocado fan, as you may remember from my post about using avocado in cookies from last summer.  The pieces were quite small and rather insignificant, so I decided that was easy enough to forget about.  I fully intended on making this as a meal, but then my dad visited, we bought a grill, and he purchased some New York strip steaks to break it in….so this became a dinner salad instead of a salad for dinner 🙂  I decided cranberries (Craisins) were enough and didn’t even bother with the golden raisins.  Here’s what I bought for the salad proper:

  • 5 oz. Trader Joe’s Baby Spring Mix (romaine, chard, arugula, frisee, radicchio)
  • 5 oz. baby spinach
  • 2 cups pecan halves
  • sliced almonds
  • 1 can mandarin oranges
  • 1 granny smith apple, diced
  • small tub of bleu cheese crumbles
  • small bag of dried cranberries

I ended up tossing the spring mix with about half a bag of spinach.  That was enough for five salads.  If you’re making this as a meal, it would probably be enough for three large salads.  Because of the sizes of the packages you’ll buy everything else in, you’ll probably have enough toppings (and vinaigrette) for 8-10 salads at least.

To make candied pecans, I followed this recipe.  Essentially, you bring water, sugar and pecans (in equal parts; I did two cups each) to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 9 minutes.  Then drain off the simple syrup and add the pecans to hot oil (375 degrees) and fry for about 45 seconds.  Let the nuts cool and you have a really delicious addition to your salad.  You’d also have an awesome snack, especially if you dusted them with some cinnamon and sugar 🙂

And here’s the recipe I followed for my citrus vinaigrette.  I followed it exactly, and let me tell you…it was potent!!  I didn’t add much to my salad and I was still taken aback; my dad and Chris added extra and paid for it haha.  I had never cooked with rice wine vinegar before, and it was far more powerful than I was expecting!  So unless you really want a kick in the pants, I’d suggest using equal parts vinegar and orange juice, not 2:1.  Either that, or try apple cider vinegar, which might be a little more mild.  Also, instead of bothering with chopping everything first, I just threw everything in my Ninja and food processed it.

It’s been in the 80s here, so essentially…it’s summer 🙂  For those of you back home who just endured that blizzard, just think…summer is only a few months away 😉

All ready for our fancy steakhouse dinner with Daddy!

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