Monday, June 27, 2016

My Favorite Banana Bread


My girls can be as different as night and day. One is calm, kind of shy; the other is non-stop energy. One will try anything; the other cries at new foods. I love observing their differences, but also seeing how well they (usually) play together.

A week or so ago, I made banana bread. Grandma delivered homemade chocolate chip cookies. I didn't think I stood a chance against those cookies, but that night after dinner, my little Nutmeg replied "Banana bread!" when I asked her what she wanted for a treat. My little Eclair (and Daddy and I) all opted for the chocolate chips... But Nutmeg is her own little person - all 30 pounds of her.

Here's a better example of their personalities. Yesterday we went to an event that offered face painting. The girl doing it had a display of different options: animals, princesses, monsters, superheroes, Minnie Mouse, etc. Eclair picked exactly what I expected: the pinkest, sparkliest, girliest design up there. Nutmeg decided she would accept nothing less than Captain America. This picture will put a smile on my face for many, many years to come... Both my girls, exactly as they should be!
Back to the banana bread: it's moist, packed with bananas, and easy enough to make. I double the recipe and freeze a loaf or give one away. If you freeze it, wrap it first in waxed paper, then in foil, then pop it in a Ziploc.

Banana bread with walnuts
Adapted from Family Meal by Tyler Florence

Yield: 1 9-inch loaf


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 overripe bananas
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and lightly grease a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside. Mash 2 of the bananas with a fork in a small bowl so they still have a bit of texture.

With an electric mixer fitted with a wire whisk, whip the remaining bananas and sugar together for a good 3 minutes; you want a light and fluffy banana cream. Add the melted butter, eggs, and vanilla; beat well and scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Mix in the dry ingredients just until incorporated; no need to overly blend. Fold in the nuts and the mashed bananas with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Give the pan a good rap on the counter to get any air bubbles out.

Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Don't get nervous if the banana bread develops a crack down the center of the loaf; that's no mistake, it's typical. Rotate the pan periodically to ensure even browning. Cool the bread in the pan for 10 minutes or so, and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely before slicing.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Zucchini noodles with basil and Parmesan


I swear my life has a soundtrack. Songs that play in my head at random moments. Tonight I hear, "cause sometimes you're shown the light in the strangest of places, if you look at it right." The Dead.

I can't actually recall the name of the song. And I for sure know it has nothing to do with, well, zucchini.

Yes, I said zucchini.

To me the lyric is about taking a different approach, looking at things a different way to get a new result. Like the scene from Dead Poets where Robin Williams has the students stand on their desks to get a different perspective.

Translate that to the world of a 3-year old and 5-year old and it means making the zucchini look like something different so that they will try it. And guess what? It worked! More than worked. It was a hit. "I love the noodles.", "These noodles are delicious". And CLEAN plates!!!!

What's the secret? I spiralized. I've rolled my eyes at the thought in the past. But needing creative ways to use my CSA haul, I've ventured to uncharted territory. I got the Kitchenaid attachment and spiralized 3 zucchini. Add a little butter, garlic, parm and fresh basil, and VOILA! A miracle.

Now, one question. How in the heck do I spiralize broccoli??????

PS I served it with a Griggstown chicken that I grilled on a rotisserie and an arugula and beet salad with local goat cheese (all CSA fare). Thank you Dreyer Farms!

Zucchini noodles with basil and Parmesan

When you need a little hope that your kids will one day love their veggies.

  • 3 medium zucchini, spiralized (you can buy them already cut at Whole Foods)
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated, plus more for garnish
  • 8 leaves fresh basil, thinly sliced
  • Kosher salt, to taste

Cooking Directions
  1. Melt the butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute for about 1 minute. Don't let the butter or garlic brown.
  2. Add the zucchini and spinkle with a bit of salt. Saute, stirring frequently, for about 2 minutes. Add the cheese and toss for another minute.
  3. Remove from heat and toss in the basil. Adjust seasoning if needed.
  4. Garnish with additional cheese to serve.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Lobster rolls


That, my friends, is what summer looks like.

Lobster will forever be associated with summer in my mind. Perhaps it was childhood vacations in Maine and on Martha's Vineyard where I learned to crack a lobster, getting every last bit of meat from even the little legs. I remember my grandfather eating the tamale and roe, which I found totally gross as a kid.

So now, whether I'm on the Island or home in New Jersey, lobster - in all its forms, but especially piled high on a lobster roll - means it is summer.

I've read countless recipes for lobster rolls. But I'll forego a lot of herbs and fancy sauces and stick with a bit of mayo, a little celery and a few capers. Add Bibb lettuce and New England style buns and it's the perfect lunch (add a cold pint of IPA for summer perfection...)

Lobster rolls

Have your fishmonger steam them for you to save time. And use a rolling pin to get the meat out of the legs.

Yield: 4 lobster rolls

  • 2 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pound lobsters, steamed, cooled and shelled
  • 1 Tbsp. mayonnaise
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1 Tbsp. nonpareil capers, drained
  • 4 leaves Bibb lettuce
  • 4 hot dog buns, preferably top sliced or New England style
  • Butter, to toast the buns

Cooking Directions
  1. Cut the lobster tails into bite sized pieces. I like to leave the claws whole, but cut if desired. Set lobster aside.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the Mayonnaise, celery and capers. Pour over the lobster and stir to combine. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  3. Heat a pan over medium low heat. Butter the sides of the buns and toast until golden brown on both sides. Remove to a platter.
  4. Line each bun with a lettuce leaf then pile high with lobster. 2 lobsters usually makes about 4 lobster rolls.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Mint cucumber gin fizz


When I look at a cocktail menu, there are a few ingredients that always draw my attention: herbs (mint, thyme, rosemary), cucumbers, summer fruits like berries or peaches. And I tend to go for gin or vodka. My go-to cocktail is a G&T with lime, but last weekend, I felt like trying something a bit more interesting (and I had a boatload of mint from my CSA).

I had spotted this on another blog and so I busted out the blender and gave it a shot. DELISH! And I'm pretty sure it's healthy because it contains a cucumber, right?!??

Mint cucumber gin fizz


This cocktail screams summer. I'll be making a pitcher for my next BBQ!

  • 4 oz. gin
  • 1 cup cucumber, cut into chunks, plus a few slices for garnish (seed the cucumber before measuring if it's very seedy)
  • 15 mint leaves, plus a few extra for garnish
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar (I used raw)
  • 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • Chilled seltzer
  • Ice

Cooking Directions
  1. In the jar of a blender, combine the cucumber chunks, the mint leaves, sugar and lemon juice. Puree until you have a smooth mixture.
  2. Fill two glasses with ice. Add 2 ounces of gin to each glass and the thinly sliced cucumbers. Fill the glasses to 2/3rds full with the cucumber mixture. Top with seltzer and stir well. Garnish with fresh mint and cucumber slices.
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