Category: Recipes


Cranana Bread: an experiment

I have always regarded banana bread as a Hail Mary pass against food waste: about as likely to be successful, and about as appetizing.

Gee, tell your wife I said "thanks." Or y'know... don't.

Gee, tell your wife I said “thanks.” Or y’know… don’t.

But sometimes, you’re looking through the pantry for maple syrup, and you find a bag of old bananas that are just too mooshy to eat straight.  And then you say, “Self, you’re going to do this, you’re going to have fun with it, and it’s okay if it comes out gross, because you’re going to learn from it, and you can always just throw it out, since that’s what would have happened to the bananas anyway.”

I added ginger and nutmeg for a little bit of a “spice cake” quality, and dried cranberries to give it some pizazz, and to counter that blah-mooshy-banana flavour.

And I was pleasantly surprised.  The only thing I might do differently is to substitute the dried cranberries with fresh ones, which would give a little more zing, and a more consistent texture.

Deliciousness, with a side of cream cheese.

Deliciousness, with a side of cream cheese.

INGREDIENTS:
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. softened butter
3 overripe bananas
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 c. cranberries (dried or fresh)

  • preheat oven to 350°, and grease and flour a 4″x8″ loaf pan
  • cream together butter and sugar, then mix in peeled bananas, eggs, and vanilla extract
  • in a separate container, mix together flour, baking soda, salt, ginger and nutmeg
  • mix dry ingredients into banana goo
  • stir in cranberries to incorporate
  • bake 50-60 min. until toothpick test comes out clean
  • remove from oven, and allow to cool
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Candied Bacon and the Jar of Joy

If I have a kitchen secret weapon, the kind of thing that might get its own catchphrase and facebook page, it’s this:

Better than butter.

Better than butter.

That, my friends, is run-off grease from my most recent batch of candied bacon.

Candied.  Bacon.  Grease.

Nana has always had a can of bacon grease in her kitchen.  Candying the bacon first is my personal upgrade, as is the cute little jar (instead of the traditional open tin can), but the first time my Wife saw me pouring off hot grease to save for later, she looked at me as though I had asked her to lick the floor of the refrigerator.  Then I started cooking with it, and made a convert of her.

There is almost nothing you can’t use this stuff for.  It has the extended lifespan of shortening, the melt point of butter, and the savory sweetness of bacon and brown sugar.  Need to make a roux?  Candied Bacon Grease can do that.  Baking apples?  Throw in a pat of this instead of butter.  Grease your cake pans.  Put it on a steak, a baked potato, asparagus.  Sear stew meat in it.  Saute shrimp in it.  Slather yourself with it and go swimming in the North Atlantic.*

If I save up enough of it this winter, I may use it to make the filling for a batch of whoopie pies.  I expect they will be well received.

And the candied bacon's nothing to sneeze at, either.

And the candied bacon’s nothing to sneeze at, either.

INGREDIENTS:
brown sugar (or maple sugar if you can find it)
bacon
a non-plastic container (I personally prefer a glass jar with twist lid)

  • cover a jelly roll pan, or any baking pan with a lip all the way around the edge, with tin foil
  • place one layer of bacon strips side by side on pan, edges slightly overlapping
  • coat bacon liberally with sugar
  • bake at 350 for about 10-12 minutes, until bacon is curling at the edges
  • remove pan from oven, drain excess grease into a non-plastic container (try not to spill it all over your kitchen counter)
  • flip bacon, apply sugar to newly exposed side of bacon slices
  • place back in oven, continue baking 5-10 minutes until it looks cooked, but is still floppy.  It will continue to crisp after you take it out.
  • with tongs, lay bacon out on paper towels to cool and blot
  • drain as much clear grease as you can into your container, and store in the refrigerator

*I do not actually endorse this idea, though it would be hilarious to see someone try.  Dad used some weird vasoline blend in the Peaks-to-Portland race back in the ’80s.  At the very least, Candied Bacon Grease would have to be more pleasant to apply.

Pantry Soup

Once upon a time, one of my friends was battling a long, drawn out case of bronchitis.  I made him and his husband a huge batch of this chicken and veggie soup, and they demolished it in one night.  When they asked me for the recipe, I was stuck.  “Uhh… there isn’t one?”

As I’ve fed it to more and more people, I’ve gotten more and more recipe requests.  So this is me, attempting to quantify magic.

Still the only way to get me to eat greenbeans.

This is another of my mother’s concoctions, born of an expedition into the depths of the pantry and freezer to try to make space for new groceries.  I know I’ve never made it exactly the same way twice, I would be shocked if she has.  We’ve used one of those pre-roasted chickens you pick up at the grocery store, or boneless/skinless chicken breasts, or leftover Thanksgiving turkey.  You could use duck, or a family of quail (although I can’t imagine why you would want to, all those tiny bones…) or any other bird that strikes your fancy. My personal favourite was when I used an *entire* frozen chicken, giblets and all.

There’s something about pulling meat off bone by hand, and chopping up a heart, that helps you appreciate the animal you’re about to eat.  Personally, I’m also inclined to believe that it gives the soup’s healing power a little extra oomph.

INGREDIENTS:
1 medium onion, chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp vegetable oil/1 tbsp butter OR a nonstick pot
1.5 – 2 lb Bird Meat (or a 3 lb whole bird)
5 – 6 c. chicken broth/stock/bouillon
1 bay leaf
1 c. rice
14 oz. can diced or crushed tomatos, strained
6 oz. mixed frozen vegetables
recommended seasonings: black pepper/rosemary/thyme/basil/cilantro/salt only if needed/a superteeny pinch of cumin if using white meat only

  • in a large pot, sweat onions and garlic with oil, butter, or nonstick surface
  • if Bird Meat is frozen or raw, add to pot now.  If using precooked, wait.
  • add stock/broth/bouillon, 1 bay leaf, black pepper, and other seasonings to taste
  • bring pot to a boil, then hold boil until Bird Meat is cooked through
  • remove cooked/precooked Bird Meat from pot/refrigerator, and set aside
  • add rice, tomato, and frozen veggies, return to boil and set timer to rice’s recommended cook time
  • stir and sample the broth, add more seasoning if needed
  • remove and discard any bone and/or skin, then chop Bird Meat into bite sized bits, about 1/2″ – 3/4″ chunks
  • return Bird Meat to pot, until heated through and rice is done

Resist the temptation to eat straight from the pot.

There are eleventyone ways to tweak this, and almost all of them are just fine.  Only have fast-cook rice?  Set the timer for the veggies instead.  Only have an “italian herb” can of tomatos?  Adjust the other seasonings accordingly.  It is, by its essence, practical.  Use what you have.  Taste often.  Don’t stress.  Feel the love.

Lemon Tea Cookies

This is a recipe my Mom started making for the holidays when my brother and I were little, and I’m keeping it going.  After a gut-busting, gravy-and-cheese-laden feast, there may not be space for cake or pie right away, but these little guys have a biscuit fluffiness and fresh lemon zing that makes them nice and light.

I promise to get better at food photography.

INGREDIENTS:
1/2 c. milk
1 tsp fine lemon zest
2 tsp lemon juice
1-3/4 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c. butter
3/4 c. sugar
1 egg
(Glaze)
3/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. lemon juice

  • preheat oven to 350°F
  • stir 2 tsp lemon juice into milk, set aside to let curdle
  • stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt
  • moosh butter in a large mixing bowl until softened.  Add 3/4 c. sugar and beat until fluffy, then add egg and lemon zest and mix well.
  • add flour mixture and milk mixture alternately, beating until well mixed
  • drop rounded teaspoon-sized globs onto an ungreased cookie sheet, bake 12-14 minutes until pick test comes out clean
  • stir together glaze ingredients, and brush over cookies while still warm

The glaze makes it tricky to transport these in small packages, so they’re better suited to being put out at a party than given as gifts.  Make sure you snag a couple for yourself before they disappear!