Posted in Baked goods, Baking, Bread, breakfast, Brunch, Cake, Uncategorized

Banana Bread Pudding with Chocolate Chips

Our local market usually has a reduced-priced cart of day old bakery goods situated in the back of the store. I always make a point to stop to see what’s available to perhaps make a batch of fresh bread crumbs, garlic bread, or a bread casserole. Most times, I use the bread for a morning breakfast casserole that includes eggs, milk, sausage, vegetables and cheese. But today, I wanted to make something sweet to accompany a bit of vanilla bean ice cream that I had on hand. I also had a few bananas that were beyond their peak of ripeness.

This recipe is a keeper! Served warm with a few small scoops of ice cream, this has become a family favorite!

Banana Bread Pudding with Chocolate Chips

4 eggs

2 cups milk

1 cup sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

4 cups French bread, cubed

2 bananas, sliced (overly ripe, if possible)

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 7×11″ baking pan. In a large bowl, combine and mix eggs, milk, sugar, and vanilla until smooth. Stir in bread, bananas, and chocolate chips, and let sit for 5-7 minutes for bread to soak up the liquid mixture. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 30-45 minutes or until pudding is golden brown and center is set.

Posted in appetizers/snacks, breakfast, Food, Toppings

Homemade Farmer Cheese

When my children were young, I used to watch all of the PBS cooking shows during their afternoon nap. I’d fold clothes, wash dishes, clean-up the toy rooms, or catch up on laundry while some of my favorite TV cooking personalities demonstrated current techniques along with new and unique recipes. When I saw a recipe that I wanted to try, I quickly jot down the main ingredients and search the library for similar recipes to combine and develop. One such recipe, Homemade Farmer Cheese…

I recently ran across this hand-written recipe in my recipe binder and decided to revisit the idea of making my own cheese. I had pots of beautiful fresh herbs that needed to be trimmed and used before the cold weather made its way to the Midwest. The result was a creamy, flavorful, spreadable mixture that beats the flavor of any store bought variety.

A word of caution… Don’t use ultra-pasteurized milk as it will not curdle as needed for this easy recipe. Also, use a thermometer to measure the temperature of the milk.

Homemade Farmer Cheese

1 gallon whole milk (not ultra-pasteurized)

½ teaspoon salt

¼ cup lemon juice or vinegar

Pour the milk into a large pot, and stir in the salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent the milk from scorching on the bottom of the pot.

When the milk begins to simmer and then reaches 190 degrees, turn off the heat. Stir lemon juice or vinegar into the milk. The acid will make the milk curdle. Let sit for 10 minutes.

Line a sieve or colander with a few layers of cheesecloth, and pour the milk through the cloth to catch the curds. The solid within the cheese cloth is the cheese (curd) and the liquid released from the mixture is the whey. Gather the cloth around the cheese, and squeeze out as much of the whey as you can. Tie up the cloth to form a cheese ball or disk, refrigerate in cheesecloth for several hours. Remove from cloth and wrap in plastic, or place in an airtight container. Store in the refrigerator.

Before serving, drizzle with good quality olive oil, sprinkle with course salt and fresh chopped herbs of your choice. I usually use basil, rosemary, and oregano. You can also use crushed red pepper flakes or chopped green onions. Serve on toasted Italian bread or hearty crackers.

For a sweeter flavor, drizzle with honey and serve with bagels, jam, and fruit.

Posted in Food, One Pot Meal, Soup

Country Corn and Chicken Chowder

Living in the Midwest, there is always an abundance of corn available this time of year. A short trip down a country road will lead you to several pop-up farm stands or an old Ford truck sitting with the tail open, piled high with beautiful ears of corn. The honor system is used when payment is needed. An old coffee or a clear mason jar sits atop the bed of the truck. Country customers put their dollars in and take change as they see fit. It always makes me smile to see trusting neighbors and friends supporting local foods.

This week, on my way back from the University, I expected to see the above mentioned vendors dotting the roads on my way home. Due to the late hour, all had packed up and headed home for supper. I had hoped to purchase a dozen ears of corn for a soup recipe I was planning to make. To my surprise, as I turned at a country crossroad, I spied an old truck filled with corn just waiting for my arrival. I grabbed a bag and filled it up. Inside the bed sat an old pretzel container with a twist lid. I popped in my cash and headed home. Here is the delicious recipe I love to make with fresh or frozen sweet corn. It is an adaptation to a recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks.

Country Corn and Chicken Chowder

1 cup diced bacon (nearly 1 pound)

1 medium onion, chopped

4 stalks of celery, chopped

½ cup flour

2 cups chicken broth

4 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped (or 1 can diced potatoes)

8 ears of corn, carefully remove kernels (or two bags frozen roasted sweet corn)

2 cups cooked chicken, diced

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon marjoram

2 teaspoons parsley

ground black pepper to taste

2 cups half-and-half (or whole milk)

Place the bacon in a large pot over medium-high heat, and cook until crisp. Drain and crumble, reserving drippings in the pot.

Mix onion and celery into the pot with reserved drippings. Cook and stir 5 minutes. Do not brown. Sprinkle flour over vegetables and cook for 5-7 minutes; do not brown. Pour in the broth, and stir in potatoes. Simmer for 10 minutes. Season with marjoram, parsley, salt, and pepper. Add chicken, corn, and cooked bacon. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and cover pot. Simmer 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until potatoes are tender. Remove from heat and carefully add half and half.

Posted in Baked goods, Baking, Bread, breakfast, Brunch, Cake, Uncategorized

Our Favorite Pound Cake

I’ve had this recipe in my file for many years. This is absolutely a “no fail”, simplistic batter that turns out the perfect pound cake every time. While I usually add almond extract to the recipe, using lemon, anise, or rum extract will all work out great, as well. Actually, any extract will do…. Simply delicious!

Our Favorite Pound Cake

1/2 cup butter

1 cup white sugar

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract

2/3 cup water

1 (8 ounce) container sour cream

1 (18.25 ounce) package yellow cake mix

1 cup all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a Bundt pan, set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, stir in the vanilla and almond extract. Beat in water and sour cream. Carefully, add and beat in the cake mix and flour. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake in the preheated oven for 60 to 70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

Posted in Baked goods, Baking, Bread, breakfast

Fresh Blueberry and Cream Cheese Breakfast Braid

Nearly every Saturday, I peer into my over crowded refrigerator to see what left-over ingredients I can pull together to make a few quick weekend meals. This past Saturday, I wanted to make a warm coffee cake for the breakfast table. As I poked around the fridge and rummaged through various containers, I found all the ingredients needed to make this delicious, fruit-filled braid. If you’re looking for a quick baked treat, this is the one for you.

Fresh Blueberry and Cream Cheese Breakfast Braid

1 package crescent dough sheet

1 pint blueberries

8 ounces package of cream cheese, softened

¼ cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar

Zest of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon flour

2 teaspoons lemon juice

¼ cup milk

¼ teaspoon almond extract

½ cup powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. On a slightly floured surface, carefully roll out the crescent dough into a thin, rectangular sheet. In a medium bowl, combine the cream cheese and 1/4 cup of granulated sugar until smooth and creamy.

Spread the cream cheese mixture onto the center of the crescent roll sheet. Leaving about an inch and a half of dough on either side of the mixture. In a separate bowl, toss the blueberries with the tablespoon of flour, lemon zest, and teaspoon of sugar. Carefully spread the blueberries over the cream cheese mixture.

To prepare the dough, make diagonal cuts into the dough from the exterior and cut about 1 ½” into the center on the long ends of the dough. Make roughly 8-10 cuts on each side. Pull the strips of dough over the top the blueberries, alternating sides. Transfer to a cookie sheet. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown.

While it is cooling, whisk together milk, almond extract, and powdered sugar to create a glaze.

When the blueberry braid has slightly cooled, drizzle the glaze over the top and serve.

Posted in appetizers/snacks, Baked goods, Baking, Pizza, Uncategorized

Spicy Garlic Chicken Pizza

I found this recipe many years ago as I sat in the dentist’s office waiting for my children to finish up with their annual checkup. When I read the ingredient list and noticed how simple the recipe appeared, I walked to the reception desk to see if I might be able to take the magazine home with me. This was an old edition and I thought they might let me have it. The receptionist was quick to agree as she said they just threw out a number of old magazines and this one must have been overlooked. Here is the original recipe as pictured in the magazine several years ago:

You can see that it’s been well used over the years… Sending along a thank you to Better Homes and Gardens and the contest winner, Kelly for a delicious weeknight recipe.

(I often add a teaspoon of fresh minced ginger to the recipe to add an Asian flair.)

Spicy Garlic Chicken Pizza

12 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breast halves

½ cup sliced green onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons rice vinegar or white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil or cooking oil

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper or 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper

¼ teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil or cooking oil

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 16 ounce (12-inch) Italian bread shell (Boboli)

½ cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese

2 tablespoons pine nuts or sliced almonds

½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Cut chicken into 1/2-inch pieces. In a large bowl combine half of the green onion, the minced garlic, rice or white wine vinegar, soy sauce, the 1 tablespoon oil, the crushed or ground red pepper, and the black pepper. Add the chicken pieces; stir to coat. Cover and let stand 30 minutes at room temperature or for 1 hour in refrigerator. Drain, reserving marinade.

Heat remaining oil in a large skillet; add chicken pieces. Cook and stir about 3 minutes or until no longer pink. Stir cornstarch into reserved marinade. Add to skillet. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Spoon evenly atop bread shell. Sprinkle with Monterey Jack and mozzarella cheeses. Bake, uncovered, in a 400 degree F. oven for 12 minutes. Top with remaining green onion and nuts. Return to oven for 2 minutes more. Makes 6 main-dish servings.

Posted in appetizers/snacks, Baked goods, Uncategorized

No-Bake Snacking Crackers

While enjoying the 4th of July holiday with family, we took advantage of all of the festivities happening around town. Local vendors celebrated by keeping shops opened late on Friday evening while providing live music, street food and a festive atmosphere. I love supporting local vendors so we headed over to the town square to visit all of the unique boutiques, bakeries, and kitchen shops. One of the shop owners had a few taste testing stations and a selection of dry mixes that could be combined to make various snacks and dips. I purchased one of the packets but I felt I probably could make a similar mix on my own. So when I returned home, I scoured some of my cookbooks and settled on a recipe that I changed up to work with ingredients that I had on hand. Boy oh boy, these crackers didn’t last long! Everybody loved the mild spiced flavor. I’ll certainly be making these again!

No-Bake Ranch Snacking Crackers

1 – 1 ounce package ranch dressing mix

2⁄3 cup canola oil

1 tablespoon dried dill seed

1 teaspoon garlic powder

2 (10 ounce) package oyster crackers OR 1 box Ritz crackers OR 2 boxes Premium Minis crackers

In a small bowl, combine ranch dressing mix, oil, dill and garlic powder. Mix well.

In a large air-tight container (Tupperware), pack crackers. Then, pour oil mixture over crackers and toss well until coated. Cover.

Flip mixture every 10-15 minutes for 2 hours. Store in the air-tight container.

Posted in Crafts

Making a Market Basket

Once again, I was able to join a great group of individuals at one of the local county parks for a day of basket making. I took several pictures throughout the day to capture the steps used to assemble this potluck or market basket. For those of you that are interested in basket making, I strongly suggest you find a class in your area. This is a dying art and learning the basic skills will build toward ideas for advanced methods. Local libraries, park district programs, and 4-H program leaders often offer hands-on opportunities to assemble basic baskets. Many basketmaking supply shops also offer classes. I really enjoy the process and certainly, the complete project. I always sign my baskets as I look forward to handing them down through the generations.

Sharing a few basketmaking tips…

We experienced some weather difficulties so we relocated to the interior of the old 1920’s barn. This June morning was cold and rainy. We usually meet in a covered pavilion but the winds were very strong and continued to blow away our supplies.

First, I measured 15 inches of weaving material (strips) for the length of the basket.l

I numerically marked all of my strips to help me weave a pattern on one side of the handle. Then, I duplicated the process on the other side of the wooden handle. Centering the project is very important.

Then, it was time to start working on the sides. I wanted to maintain my pattern up the side of the basket, so I used clothes pins to help me achieve this. The first row is always the most difficult to manage. The clothes pins act as another pair of “hands”.

Continue working up the side of the basket, adding any details desired. I added a colorful pattern of dyed strips. Make sure to alter the starting point for each strip, rotating the basket a half turn for an altered starting point for each row. Continue to shape the basket while building the sides.

Trim and bend alternate strips along the top edge of the basket making sure to leave enough length to insert strips under the existing basket weave.

Now it’s time for the finishing touches. An edge is placed on the top of the basket and sea grass is placed between the (half-round) edging strips. Once again, clothes pins act as extra “hands” to hold it all in place.

Lashing is used to complete the project and pull all of the finished edge pieces together.

A final dip in a black walnut wash finishes off the project by adding a weathered or aged look to the basket. Here the baskets dry in the shade of the old barn.

I love the size and shape of this beautiful basket. I can’t wait for our next basketmaking session!

Posted in appetizers/snacks, Desserts, Food, Kids in the Kitchen

4 Ingredient Fruit Pops

As the temperatures rise and children return to outdoor play, this simple recipe provides a healthy dose of potassium, vitamin C, folate, and dietary fiber. Adding a few tablespoons of local honey makes for a sweet and nutritious summertime treat.

If your family is anything like mine, these fruity popsicles won’t last long in the freezer!

4 Ingredient Fruit Pops

1 ripe banana, peeled and sliced (frozen bananas work best)

12 strawberries, cleaned, trimmed, and halved

1/2 cup pineapple chunks

2 tablespoons honey

Combine fruit and honey in the food processor. Purée until smooth and creamy. Fill and cap popsicle molds. Freeze for four hours. Loosen popsicle molds by briefly running under warm water. Serve immediately.

Posted in Baked goods, Baking, Bread, breakfast, Brunch, Cake

Cinnamon Roll Cake

I just love easy, semi-homemade recipes. Last week, just before the Easter holiday, stores throughout my neighborhood had great deals on baking staples like sugar, flour, eggs, and cake mix. I took advantage of many of the sales buying lots of sugar for our bees and lots of cake mix for easy recipes like the one listed below. This is always one of the first items to go when set along side other items on the breakfast buffet. This cake also travels well so taking it to Easter brunch or a summer holiday party is great. Just slice the cooled cake into 1 ½” squares and serve it right out of an attractive baking dish.

Cinnamon Roll Cake

1 box yellow cake mix

4 eggs

3/4 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup sour cream

1 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

2 cups powdered sugar

2 1/2 tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9×13 Baking pan with nonstick spray and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine cake mix, eggs, oil, vanilla and sour cream. Mix on low for 30 seconds and then raise the speed to medium and mix for 2 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary.

Spread the cake batter evenly into your prepared pan. In a medium bowl whisk together the brown sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle this evenly on top of your cake.

Using a butter knife gently swirl the cinnamon sugar throughout the cake batter. (Ribbons of sugar and spice.).

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick entered into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool cake for 15-20 minutes.

In a medium bowl whisk together the powdered sugar and milk. Pour this over the slightly cooled cake.