Friday, April 30, 2010

Color and Coconut Banana Bread with Lime Glaze

I love color. Some of my favorite “things” in our apartment are the most colorful: the quilt I made with my mom, the green lamps that were wedding presents, the curb market painting by one of my favorite artists, and the vibrant pictures from our wedding day. Imagine my delight when my husband gave me this three-week early gift for finishing my first year of graduate school.

I was surprised and thrilled (and a little worried that his gift was premature.  The grades aren't in yet!).  These beauties really brightened my day.

My tastes in food are often colorful, too. I like vibrant flavors that play well off one another. That’s why I had to make this breakfast bread when I saw the recipe. It was the perfect breakfast for a study day.

Coconut Banana Bread with Lime Glaze

slightly adapted from Cooking Light

1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
½ cup all purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup butter, softened
2 large eggs
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup plain yogurt
3 tablespoons rum
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup flaked sweetened coconut, plus extra for sprinkling on top
½ cup powdered sugar
juice of ½ lime

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.

In a medium bowl, beat together the butter and sugar for one minute. Add the eggs and beat for 1 minute. Add the bananas, yogurt, rum, and vanilla extract and beat until well blended. Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until just combined. Stir in the ½ cup coconut.

Pour the batter in the prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle additional coconut over the top of the batter. Bake for one hour, or until a tester comes out clean. Cool the cake for ten minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a rack. Meanwhile, mix together the lime juice and powdered sugar. Use a toothpick to prick the top of the cake. Drizzle the lime glaze over the top of the cake.

Print Friendly
Pin It!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Food for Comfort: Orange Rolls

Do you ever have one of those days or weeks when life just hits hard?  This weekend was like that for me.  I knew it would be busy.  I had everything planned, including what homework I would finish and when, who would be coming over for meals, what I would cook, household tasks, and more.  Let's just say I was ambitious.  And before my weekend barely began, my plans were knocked out from under me.  I know that times like this happen for a purpose; still, days and weeks like this are hard, frustrating, overly emotional. 

I am thankful for my husband, my family, and my friends who encourage me and remind me to find true and lasting comfort in God, especially in the midst of suffering.  What a great and awesome truth! 

While I look to God as I embark on this next week (with the ever growing to-do list, a bit of exhaustion, and added emotion), there is always something comforting about good food, even if only momentarily.  While the spinach quiche, fresh fruit, and sausage that we enjoyed for brunch today were good, I could eat the whole pan of these orange rolls.  I'm quite certain that eating the entirety would give me great momentary comfort; however, one or two will suffice. 

Orange Rolls

For the rolls:
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (.25 oz package)
1 egg
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon salt
3 3/4 cups bread flour
For the filling:
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup butter, softened
zest of two oranges
For the glaze:
3 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
juice of 1/2 orange
1/8 teaspoon salt
In a small saucepan, heat the milk and water until the mixture reaches 120 degrees.  Pour the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.  Add the sugar and yeast, stir once, and let sit until the mixture bubbles (around 10 minutes). 
With the mixer on medium low speed, add the egg, butter, salt and flour.  Increase the speed to medium for 8 minutes.  The dough will be slightly sticky. 
Grease a medium metal bowl.  Add the dough, and turn to coat the top.  Cover with a towel and let the dough rise in a warm place for one hour.  After the first rise, deflate the dough, and cover again with the towel while you mix together the filling ingredients. 
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a 25 x 6 inch rectangle (you may want to split this into two 13 x 6 inch rectangles). Spread with the filling mixture.  Roll up the dough and pinch together.  Slice into 24 one inch slices and place on a baking sheet.  Cover with saran wrap and refrigerate overnight.  Alternately, cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes.

Let the refrigerated rolls sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 350°.  Bake in a preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, until the tops of the rolls begin to brown.  While the rolls bake, whisk together the icing ingredients until smooth.  Remove the rolls from the oven and top with the icing.

Print Friendly

Pin It!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Pimento cheese is the glue that holds the South together*

The next few weeks are going to be pretty crazy here.  My classmates, husband and I have already experienced an overwhelming mix of knowledge, class load, and life.  But what has been experienced a few days here and there is now going to be spread out over a few constantly busy weeks.  When there's so much going on in life, it is always good to have some bit of simplicity.  This week, pimento cheese has brought a bit of simplicity in our lives. 

Pimento cheese is one of the main southern staples.  It is found at most deli counters, many refrigerators, and an imposter version is processed and in a jar at every grocery store (I don't recommend this kind).  True pimento cheese is simplicity on a sandwich, composed primarily of cheese, jarred pimentos, and mayonnaise. 

However, it is also quite controversial and often elicits responses of hatred and disgust, usually from those who have only tried the imposter version.  Most of those who love pimento cheese seem to prefer it with some heat, or at least a savory version.  However, there are a few who like a slightly sweet version.  I happen to be one of those.  Please don't run in horror or throw sticks at me. 

This pimento cheese does make a wonderful sandwich, but my favorite way to enjoy it is on a ginger snap or graham cracker.  The juxtaposition of (mostly) savory and sweet is good, just like baked brie and cranberries or cream cheese with sweet pepper jelly on ginger snaps.  If you like those flavor combinations, chances are you'll probably like this, too.  And if you don't, I have plans to try a savory, spicy pimento cheese in the coming months. 

Pimento Cheese

8 oz Muenster cheese
8 oz extra sharp cheddar cheese
8 oz mozzarella cheese
8 oz Monterrey jack cheese
1/4 cup sugar
7-8 oz jarred pimentos
1 cup Hellmann's or Duke's mayonnaise

Grate the cheeses using a food processor or a box grater.  Put the cheese in a large bowl.  Add the sugar, and toss together.  Add the pimentos with their juice and toss together (until the pimentos are well dispersed).  Stir in the mayonnaise. 

The pimento cheese will be very soft when just prepared, but it will become more stiff after refrigerated for a few hours.  Store pimento cheese in a covered container.  Serve on sandwiches, celery sticks, ginger snaps, or graham crackers. 

Print Friendly

*This blog post title comes from Being Dead is No Excuse: The Official Southern Ladies Guide to Hosting the Perfect Funeral.
Pin It!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Custard, good. Jam, good. Meat, good!...and Oatmeal Toffee Cookies

When we left Montgomery, we not only left our family, job, home, and church, but we left a wonderful group of friends.  They were the ones that we laughed and cried with, the ones we looked forward to seeing every Monday night, the ones we thought of when we wanted to have a movie night or Christmas party.  I knew when we left that we would make new friends and would love them dearly, too; and we have.  But there will always be experiences and memories that will be specific to each friend or group of friends. 

Those memories have the ability to make me smile even now, and I'm sure even years from now.  I would always laugh when the husbands in our group would start quoting T.V. lines!  Some of their favorites were The Office, Saved by the Bell, and Friends.  There are episodes that I am sure that I have never seen, but even I can quote the lines because of these guys.  One of their favorites (and mine) is a line from Friends.  I'll spare the details of the episode (you can watch the scene here), but it concerns Joey enjoying a trifle which contains custard, jam, and meat.  I often think of my friends when I cook something with an unexpected ingredient (I also check to see if the pages of my cookbook are stuck together, too!). 

These Oatmeal cookies don't contain meat, but they do have the surprising crunch of pecans, crisp of Rice Krispies, and salty sweetness of toffee.  The cookies are quite small, and the recipe makes enough to share with all of your friends (about 7 dozen!).  They're bite sized, perfectly chewy, and have a great contrast of sweet and a touch of salt.  What's not to like?

Oatmeal Toffee Cookies
from my Mom

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup rice krispies
1 cup shredded coconut
1 1/2 cups toffee bits (heath or skor)
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 325. 

In a medium bowl, sift together the dry ingredients.  In a large bowl, cream the sugars and butter with a mixer.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time.  Add the vanilla and mix well.  Gradually add the sifted flour mixture.  Using a wooden spoon, stir in the oats, rice krispies, coconut, toffee, and pecans.  The batter will be crumbly. 

Using a small cookie scoop, measure out about two teaspoons of batter and place about 1 1/2 inches apart on a nonstick baking sheet.  Flatten each portion slightly with your fingers.  Bake for 8-10 minutes.  Allow cookies to cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet, and then remove to a cooling rack. 

Print Friendly

Pin It!

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Life of a college student and Southern Banana Pudding

When I was in college, I was wild.  Maybe not wild in the party-hardy loose living kind of way, but I did do crazy things.  I don't remember a semester when I had less than the maximum 18 hour load of classes, and I often had special permission to take more.  I was involved in my sorority, was on the school swing dance committee, performed in an on-campus ballet, was involved in a campus ministry, often participated in Relay for Life, fundraisers, and church events, was often found in the house kitchen cooking up something for friends or classmates, would stay up until the wee hours with friends, and then would do my homework.  I have no idea how I would live such a life, day after day, and survive!  There were days when I would get two or three hours of sleep, night after night.  I cannot even fathom that now!

I still love being involved.  I'm still a go-getter, to an extent.  But I cannot go with such gusto anymore (and even if I could, I now have a husband who would collapse if he had to keep up with me).  All that said, this week was a week requiring that old college fervor.  Thankfully, we had no less than seven hours of sleep each night. 

The big event this week was the Annual Culture Night I mentioned a few weeks ago.  I was indeed asked to coordinate the southern table, and had several wonderful friends who helped as well.  We were given few instructions, our budget, and a lot of freedom.  I chose to represent the south with shrimp and baked garlic cheese grits, turnip greens, black-eyed peas, and homemade banana pudding.  Because I had a full meal and I knew there would be other cultures and other foods there, I decided to only cook for 40.  I figured if we ran out, then we ran out.  There was a huge turnout; I would guess well over 100 people.  But there was also a lot of food!  By the time the crowd got to my table, their plates were full with an assorted variety of food including Chinese, Greek, Malaysian, Korean, Irish, African Amercian, and much more.  At the end of the night, I took home about 30 servings of shrimp, grits, greens and peas, which I promptly packaged to send home with friends!

The banana pudding was another story.  This rather unattractive dish of homemade pudding, bananas and vanilla wafers topped with real whipped cream, which frequents church potluck dessert tables and almost always shows up at low brow BBQ restaurants, was completely gone.  This is comfort food at its finest. 

Now I have to go bake a cake, or go to a party, or do some homework, or something.

Homemade Banana Pudding

Adapted from

45 Vanilla wafers (about half a box)
3-4 bananas, sliced
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk (whole or 2%)
3 egg yolks, well beaten
2 teaspoons butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon powdered sugar

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the flour and 1 cup sugar.  Add one cup of cold milk and whisk until combined, then whisk in the eggs, and finally add the rest of the milk. 

Cook, stirring often with a whisk, over medium-low heat for four minutes, and then reduce the heat to low.  Continue to stir and cook over low heat until thick, about fifteen minutes.  Remove from the heat, and stir in the butter and vanilla extract.

In a glass bowl, layer the vanilla wafers, sliced bananas, and pudding.  Repeat the layers until you have used all of the pudding (reserve some vanilla wafers and bananas for the top layer).

Pour the whipping cream in a cold metal bowl.  Using a hand mixer, beat the cream until it is thick.  Mix in the powdered sugar.  Pour the whipped cream over the banana pudding, and decorate the top with the remaining vanilla wafers and banana slices. 
Pin It!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Always Something to Do...and Vegetable Fajitas

I remember when I was 15 or 16 my parents wanted to move to "the country."  We would drive around the country what seemed like every Sunday afternoon, looking at properties while my parents dreamed about their country house with chickens and goats.  I sulked because I thought that if we moved to the country, there would be absolutely nothing to do, none of my friends would come see me, and my parents wouldn't let me as a 16 year old drive "in town" to see my friends.  I was afraid of isolation and boredom.  Now I know that country living would have been just fine.  There is always something to do, even if it is a little different from city living. 

There's also a difference between small city living and big city living.  There was always something to do in Montgomery (despite how much we complained about being bored), some place to explore or some mall to shop.  However, Montgomery could never quite compare with Atlanta, or even Birmingham.  So, now that we're in the northeast, with quite a few big cities at our fingertips, we can never complain about having nothing to do.  We've explored Washington, D.C., spent Thanksgiving in NYC, and this weekend it was time for us to tour a bit closer to home in Center City, Philadelphia. 

Now, we've walked through parts of Center City before, but it has been a while.  And while I have explored parts of Old City, my husband has not.  With pretty weather, and a bit of a break in studying, we decided it was time.  We started at City Hall and made our way down Market Street toward the Delaware, ending up at Penn's Landing.  We were not able to explore everything in Old City, but then again, there will always be something to do.

The Largest Organ in the World is located in Macy's

Macy's Annual Flower Show

Reading Terminal Market:
A hodgepodge of anything you might want or need.

Philadelphia is full of History: City Hall, The Liberty Bell, Christ Church

All in all, we had a great time.  You might think that I would be making cheesesteaks tonight in honor of our Philadelphia outing, but I'll leave the cheesesteaks to the professionals.  Instead, I'm going to pay homage to the ethnic diversity and availability of fresh produce in Reading Market. 

Vegetable Fajitas

2 bell peppers, sliced into thin strips
2 portobello mushrooms, or 8 oz white mushrooms, sliced
1 onion, halved and sliced
1 can black beans, drained
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
3 tablespoons lime juice
3 tablespoons tequila, beer, or vegetable broth
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Olive oil, for skillet
Four 8-inch tortillas
Sour cream, for serving

Mix together the first 14 ingredients in a small bowl.  Cover and let sit for 1 hour (up to 4 hours).

Set the oven to the lowest possible setting.  Wrap the tortillas in aluminum foil and place in the oven to warm. 

Heat a large skillet over high heat.  Add olive oil and turn to coat the pan.  When the pan is hot, add the vegetables with their marinade.  Cook for 8 minutes, stirring often, until the vegetables are soft and fragrant and there is very little liquid in the skillet.  Serve with the warm tortillas, salsa and sour cream. 

Print Friendly
Pin It!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Hello Weekend, and Homemade Tomato Salsa

Do you ever come to the end of a week and think, "I cannot believe I survived that?"  That is how my week was.  It seemed like there was this impossible mountain of "To Do" before me, and not nearly enough time to do it.  When it gets like that, even the smallest tasks are huge.  By the time Thursday night came around and everything was checked off and turned in, I was ready to collapse.  But it was done. 

Don't get me wrong, there is always something to do, a book to read, a paper to write, or notes to study.  But on a Friday night, it is nice to be able to sit down with the one I love, to enjoy "cocktail hour" with him over chips and homemade salsa, and then enjoy supper across the table from one another without the rush of a 6:30 class or homework to do.  After supper, we watched a couple of movies, and then went to bed, without a second thought about exams, papers, or books. 

This salsa has a good, fresh flavor (which will be even better when summer tomatoes get here).  I used a blender to make this salsa, although I will probably use a food processor in the future for more control over the chunkiness. 

Tomato Salsa for a Work-Free Friday Night

4 large tomatoes, cored and cut into eighths
3 jalapenos, stem and core removed (reserve some of the seeds if you like your salsa spicy)
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
1-2 garlic cloves
1 small onion, cut into eights
1 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons kosher salt
juice of one lime

In a blender or food processor, place two of the tomatoes and the rest of the ingredients.  Pulse until everything is well chopped.  If you use a blender, you will probably have to stop and press everything down with a spatula  a few times.  Add the remaining tomatoes and pulse until they are roughly chopped.  Taste and stir in extra kosher salt or jalapeno seeds, to taste. 

Pin It!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

He is Risen!

Today we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord.  We are blessed to be able to celebrate the eternal life that we possess through Christ by enjoying time on this earth with friends, good food, and a beautiful day. 

Hot Cross Buns from Good Friday

Easter Gifts left by the Bunny

We hope that you have a blessed Easter day. 
Pin It!