baking day: banana bread and collecting cookbooks

I made pumpkin bread the last time around and this time I decided to make banana bread. My banana bread is a little different from some recipes but I think it’s delicious.

Start with preheating your oven to 350°.

Next, your ingredients:

3/4 of a cup of butter, almost melted

1 cup white sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

Four eggs

2 1/2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon cardamom

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 cup chopped pecans

1 cup dried cranberries

1 cup dark raisins

Five large bananas mashed up

The first thing I do is in a medium bowl is mash the bananas. I have a hand potato masher that works nicely for this chore. I try to use very ripe bananas the flavor is better.

Next I grease and flour two pans – I think the dimensions are 9″ x 5″ but don’t hold me to that. I grease with butter and with almond meal (almond flour– I use it a lot in baking). If you don’t have almond meal in your pantry just use flour.

Put the pans to the side.

And a second bowl, mix together with 2 tablespoons of other flour or almond meal your raisins, chopped pecans, dried cranberries

Throw your butter in the microwave in a microwave safe dish for almost a minute. Add it to a large bowl with the butter and sugar. Cream until smooth add your vanilla and your eggs, mix again. Next add the mashed bananas and your cardamom and cinnamon.

After that is smooth and well mixed, add in your salt, baking soda, baking powder and give it a stir. Add in your flower one cup at a time. Once the batter is well mixed if you have been using a hand mixer switch to a regular old-fashioned wooden spoon and stir in the nuts and dried fruits.

Split your batter equally between your two pans and dust tops with granulated sugar. Next, place next to each other but not touching in your preheated oven.

The banana bread cooks for about an hour, and when a toothpick comes out relatively clean your bread should be done. Cool at least 20 minutes in the pans before removing from pans and cooling completely on baking racks before wrapping up. You can freeze a loaf or not. They last about a week. Or less depending on how hungry everyone in your house is!

Ovens are funny so sometimes it’s a little less time sometimes it’s a little more time. I don’t remember what it was that I baked and wrote the recipe down and posted, but the time I listed for me worked perfectly with my oven yet a reader wrote to me that with their oven it took a little more time.

Baking is not completely an exact science when it comes to ovens and cooking times. And there’s also trial and error. And it also depends on the home cook. I am more of one that uses recipes as a guide and I will wing it a lot. If it’s something I make often enough, I will try now to write the recipe down.

My problem is that a lot of the women of older generations in my family that taught me to cook from the time I was a small child didn’t actually use recipes. Maybe they had the basics on an index card, but more often than not it was straight out of their head and you learn how things were right by the feel of batters and doughs and what not. So that is kind of the way I learned. Some things had recipes and exact measurements, and some things just didn’t. Homemade pasta, for example, was one of the things that didn’t have anything written down. It was just passed from person to person how to do it.

My mother has a great collection of wonderful cookbooks, and what I learned from her includes having a great collection of wonderful cookbooks. It was my mother taught me to check out the regional cookbooks that various Junior League chapters and ladies aid societies and women’s church groups would put out.

For example, decades ago at this point (like around 1980), the Philadelphia Orchestra West Philadelphia Women’s Committee put out a wonderful cookbook called The Philadelphia Orchestra Cookbook. I still have it in my cookbook collection today and it has wonderful recipes including one from my mother! I don’t recall ever had anything from the Philadelphia Junior League, but I do have a cookbook called The Philadelphia Cookbook of Town and Country circa 1963 that was by Anna Wetherill Reed. This cookbook has many wonderful recipes including for oldschool cocktails like a Philadelphia Old Fashioned cocktail and a recipe for Fish House Punch attributed to State In Schuylkill.

As far as the regional cookbooks go I have a couple from Mystic Seaport in Connecticut, a few southern Junior League cookbooks (like Charleston, Virginia, and Shreveport Louisiana). Sadly, as far as my regional and fundraising type cookbooks go the one that was the largest disappointment is the one that was put out by the Devon Horse Show a few years ago called Appetizers at Devon. I never fell in love with any of the recipes. I guess maybe it just reflects the changing style of the women’s committees in general all over today versus days gone by. A lot of these women don’t get into their kitchens, they order out, they buy prepared foods, they have boxes of portioned out foods delivered like Blue Apron, Hello Fresh and what not, they use caterers, they go to restaurants.

One of the best cookbooks and most fun that I have the counts as a regional cookbook is Greek Cooking in an American Kitchen. These are recipes compiled by the Saint Luke’s Greek Orthodox Church Women’s Auxiliary in Broomall, Pennsylvania. Those ladies started putting out a cookbook in 1973, and the addition I have is the fourth edition from 1997. If you can get your paws on a copy, and you like Greek food, this is an amazing cook book and the recipes are easy to follow.

I even have a cookbook from the Italian market in Philadelphia. I have course, also have a nice selection of cookbooks from the professionals like Ina Garten and the New York Times. I have also mentioned in prior posts that if you can get your hands on volumes one or two of The American Contry Inn and Bed And Breakfast Cookbooks put out years ago by the Maynards, they are wonderful as well.

A new cookbook I am going to suggest that everyone go to Amazon to get (and it’s going to be released soon because I just got my shipping notification) is by Delaware county native Elisa Costantini and her son Frank Constantini. It’s called Italian Moms: Something Old Something New 150 Recipes. I also have her book Italian Moms: Spreading Their Art to Every Table which was self published.

Enjoy your day!

swedish meatballs….my way

I love old school recipes.  One from my childhood is Swedish meatballs.  Not because we had any Swedish heritage – it was just one of those dishes my mother would make for us.  Over the years I have tweaked a basic recipe to suit me.

The weather has finally turned crisp and fall-like so I thought tonight would be a good night to dust off the recipe and prepare Swedish meatballs.  My recipe is NOT made with heavy cream and I add mushrooms and a couple of other herbs/spices. But the flavors work and you get that old school Swedish meatball flavor…enhanced.  Some add caraway seeds to either the gravy or meatballs, I add celery seed to the gravy

I also do something that I doubt anyone else does – I will prepare the meatball mix ahead of time the day I am cooking and refrigerate until it is time to make the meatballs.  That allows the spices to meld and perfume the meat mixture better.

Panko bread crumbs are superior to regular bread crumbs in my opinion, but the most important thing to remember is to use PLAIN breadcrumbs. This is not the recipe for flavored breadcrumbs.

Some use mashed potatoes, I like wide egg noodles.

I hope you enjoy my recipe if you try it. Watch the salt you add because of the sodium in most broths.

Swedish Meatballs My Way

  • 1 pound meatloaf mix
  • 1 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ cup onion, finely chopped x 2 or 1 cup
  • ½ teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon White Pepper
  • ½ teaspoon sweet paprika
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried mustard powder
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • Splash of buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon dill
  • 8 oz package baby bella mushrooms slices thin
  • 1 egg
  • 6 tbsp. olive oil
  • 5 tbsp. butter
  • 3 tbsp. flour
  • 2 cups beef broth or bison broth
  • 1 cup evaporated Vitamin D canned milk (also great for homemade macaroni and cheese) or half and half
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a medium sized bowl combine ground beef, panko, parsley, allspice, nutmeg, onion, garlic powder, white pepper, cumin, paprika, mustard powder, dash of buttermilk, salt and egg. Mix until combined. Put in refrigerator and chill a couple of   I do this because meat mixture flavor deepens.
  2. Roll into  20 + small meatballs. In a large dutch oven heat olive oil and 2 Tablespoons butter. Add the meatballs and cook turning continuously until brown on each side and cooked throughout. Transfer to a plate and cover with foil.
  3. Quickly sauté ½ cup minced onion and baby bella mushrooms
  4. Add 4 Tablespoons butter and flour to skillet and whisk until it turns brown. Slowly stir in beef broth and milk. Add Worcestershire sauce and Dijon mustard and dill and bring to a simmer until sauce starts to thicken. Salt and pepper to taste. Add a small dash of nutmeg (I mean small!) and celery seed.
  5. Add the meatballs back to the skillet and simmer for another few minutes. Serve over egg noodles or as the Brits call it, a “good mash” or plain mashed potatoes. I prefer egg noodles.

savoring summer

Summer always means fresh pesto sauce. And fresh pesto is totally easy to make.

All it is is olive oil, huge bunches of fresh basil, salt to taste, fresh garlic cloves, a pinch of thyme, a sweet onion, a dash or two of balsamic vinegar,and a red bell pepper if you have one laying around.

Today I probably used about a cup and a half of olive oil. I easily used four cups of fresh basil because my plants need it to be pruned.

You blend it all together in a food processor or blender and you let it sit in the refrigerator to chill so the flavors meld. When you go to heat it up with pasta you can add pine nuts and grated fresh Parmesan cheese. I also like to sauté chicken tenders and add that to a pesto and pasta dish.

People also use pesto sauce in vegetable soups like tomato in particular. Some people also like to add anchovies and sun-dried tomatoes, but I don't really care for that taste combination with pesto sauces .

Often homemade pesto will not be as thick and gummy as store-bought pesto sauces but those sauces have thickeners and / or preservatives in them. I love homemade pesto sauce, store-bought not so much.

I will also note that I saw the "West Chester Food Co-Op" is advertising a Gazpacho Adaluz (I put them in air quotes because they aren't a real bricks and mortar store they are just a booth I don't understand at the West Chester Growers Market. ) So I thought I would remind my dear readers that I shared such a recipe with you five years ago. It is called Kendall's Gazpacho as it is named after my late mother in law who bought the recipe back from Spain many decades ago.

Click here for the recipe to Kendall's Gazpacho. and the photo you see below is a batch of the gazpacho I made recently. The color of the soup is determined by the color of your vegetables. So when I use green bell pepper it stays green. When I use an orange or red bell pepper, the soup takes a red or orange hue. This is different from other gazpachos and doesn't actually have as many tomatoes as you would put in one of those.

Anyway I hope you make yourselves a batch of pesto and/or gazpacho before the end of the summer. The flavors of fresh vegetables this time of year can't be beat!

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen.

lost and found


I was rearranging my cookbooks and going through some older ones that were my mother’s at one point, and when I open one cookbook it was like opening Pandora’s box. Old photos and recipes. One recipe was hand typed by someone for my mother, and I remember her making this cake. I think this was a childhood friend’s  mother’s carrot cake recipe.

The other recipes were torn out of magazines and print publications. 

These are all from the late 1960s and early 1970s. I thought it would be fun to share.


blueberry fig preserves 

I was given the gift of figs off of a friend’s fig tree yesterday, so even though I wasn’t sure I was going to be putting anything up this fall, this morning I made blueberry fig preserves.

2 teaspoons baking soda 

8 cups fresh figs stems removed or 2 pounds of fresh figs 

2 1/2 cups fresh blueberries

1 1/2 cups fresh apple cider

1/2 cup water

1 cup turbinado sugar

1/2 cup pure maple syrup

5 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract – pure only

1 lemon thinly sliced into rounds seeds removed

Juice of one lemon

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

Half teaspoon ground cloves

Half teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg

Healthy pinch of salt

Three cinnamon sticks

First dissolve the baking soda in about 2 quarts of cool water and immerse the figs in the treated water either in one half of your kitchen sink if you have a double sink or in a really large bowl. Gently stir to wash the figs using your hand in the water.

Drain the figs and remove all stems and cut in half and place in a bowl.

In a big stewpot or jam pot (depending on what you have) slowly dissolve the sugar, maple syrup, butter, vanilla extract, water, apple cider, spices and a pinch of salt.

Now that you have created a sort of syrup add your fruit – figs, blueberries, lemon slices.

Toss in the cinnamon sticks. Add the lemon juice. 

Bring up to a boil over medium heat and stir a lot because the stuff will stick to the pan. Reduce heat to a simmer and stir gently occasionally and cook down until the figs are golden brown and the blueberries are so deep they almost appear a purple black.

As the figs are reaching the right color, I use an immersion blender to break everything up while continuing to cook down. I have friends who don’t do this at all and the reason I do it is because I like to serve fig preserves with cheese when company comes over and when there are big chunks of fig it makes it clumsy.

Truthfully this all cooked a couple of hours. 


While your jam is cooking sterilize your jars and lids in your canning pot. I actually broke down last year and bought a real big canning pot – black granite ware.

When your jam is ready to jar ladle it into your jars, leaving about a quarter inch at the top of room. Put your lids and rings on completely seal super tight and put them in your boiling hot water bath for 10 to 15 minutes. I will note that I looked at several recipes when developing my own recipe and people were processing anywhere from six minutes to 15 minutes in the hot water bath. I would say I processed mine about 10 minutes maybe a little less.

Pull your jars out and place on a cloth covered or wooden surface several inches apart until they are cool. Once the jars are completely cool press in the center to make sure they are sealed. Store in a cool dark area and wait at least two days before opening. I personally like to let my preserves said a couple of weeks before I try them.

Another important note is this is a recipe without using pectin. So it will probably be more loose than a jam made with pectin. You can make it both ways. I have always made fig preserves or fig jam without pectin. This is also the first time I’ve actually ever written down or looked at recipes for the jam – I’ve just always winged it and it’s turned out fine

rainy day chili

chili

One of the ladies in my cooking group asked for my rainy day chili recipe, so here it is:

 

Brown 1 lb ground pork and 1 lb ground beef with 6 cloves of garlic diced and 1 sweet onion and 1 red onion chopped.   Salt to taste.

 

To that add 4 grated carrots (medium carrots), and 1 1/2 cups grated raw potatoes (red bliss or Yukon gold).

 

Add one package frozen corn (no sauce kind – just the corn).

 

If I have green or red bell pepper I will chop up one of those too.

 

Add 3 Tablespoons Chili Powder (I use hot), 1 teaspoon Chipotle Chili Powder, 1 teaspoon Smoked Hot Paprika, 1 teaspoon bittersweet paprika. A few dashes of cumin.

 

Then add ¼ cup chopped fresh Cilantro and 1 Tablespoon dried oregano

 

Add one 40.5 ounce can of dark red kidney beans (or white cannellini beans which my grocery store has been out of)

 

Add one 28 ounce can of crush red tomatoes.

 

Add one 28 ounce can of tomato puree.

 

Add a few dashes of chipotle Tabasco sauce or a good Mexican hot sauce.

 

Bring to a slow boil over medium low heat and reduce to low/ simmer and cook the chili for a few hours until cooked down a bit (makes it thicker).

 

Simmer with a splatter screen on unless you want your kitchen to wear chili.

 

Adjust for seasoning here and there.  Chili cooked a day ahead and reheated is even better because spices have a chance to settle in.

 

when life gives you LOTS of apples…make apple cake

IMG_4361

Fall means a bounty of fresh apples. Fall also means apple cake. So I made one today. I did not give it enough minutes to cool, so I did have to put the cake back together ever so slightly.  It happens. Still looks delicious and will taste even better.

Here is how I made it:

 

    • 6 cups peeled thinly sliced apples (today I used giant Golden delicious from IMG_4357a friend’s tree)
    • ¾ cup turbinado or white sugar
    • 4 teaspoons cinnamon
    • 1 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
    • 1 teaspoon cardamom
    • 3 cups flour
    • 1 hearty tablespoon baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 4 large eggs
    • 1 1/2 cup light brown sugarIMG_4356
    • 1 cup oil
    • 1/2 cup orange juice
    • 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
    • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
    • 1 cup pecan pieces
    • 2/3 cup seedless black raisins
    • Confectioner’s sugar for dusting

How to mix up and bake:

  1. Mix apple slices with cinnamon and ¾ cup turbinado or white sugar and 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar in a bowl and put to side.
  2. Combine dry ingredients including nutmeg and cardamom in a medium bowl; set aside.
  3. Beat eggs with 1 1/2 light brown sugar.
  4. Alternately add the dry ingredients and the oil to the wet ingredients, then add theIMG_4358 orange juice and lastly the vanilla and beat for 1 minute. (batter will be rather thick)
  5. Pour 1/3rd of the batter into a greased and floured tube or Bundt pan
  6. Layer  1/3rd of the apple slices, raisins, and nuts over the batter.
  7. Repeat with layer of batter, then apples, raisins, and nuts, then batter, then final layer of apples, raisins, and nuts.
  8. Drizzle the cake with a bit of the remaining cinnamon-sugar goop from the apple bowl.
  9. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and about 20 minutes or until tester comes out  clean.
  10. Allow cake to cool in pan on wire rack for 25 – 35 minutes, then turn cake out onto wire rack to cool completely.
  11. Dust top with confectioner’s sugar

IMG_4362