Monday, January 12, 2015

Banana Bread Pancakes

I love banana bread.  My husband loves pancakes.  He also loves breakfast food for dinner.  When I saw this recipe, I knew I had to try it.  Especially for a Pancake Tuesday - Mardi Gras sort of dinner.  These pancakes are sweet, especially with the recommended syrup, so pair them with some bacon or sausage to cut that sugar.  I served them up with some hot chocolate spiked with a little Kahlua!

3/4 cup mashed bananas (about 2)
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup sugar
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
sliced bananas
chopped pecans

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the bananas, buttermilk, sugar, butter, egg, and vanilla on low speed.  Mix until smooth (the bananas will leave some lumps).  Slowly add in flour, baking soda, and salt.  Stir until just combined.

Heat a nonstick skillet to medium-low and coat with nonstick spray.  Drop batter by about 1/4 cup (I use an ice cream scoop) onto griddle and cook until bubbles appear and bottoms are brown, about 4 minutes.  Flip pancakes and cook until brown, about 2 minutes more.

Serve with Bananas Foster Syrup and garnish with sliced bananas and pecans.

Serves 2.

Recipe adapted from Cuisine at Home, February 2014.
Miz Helen’s Country Cottage

Monday, January 5, 2015

Bananas Foster Syrup

I love traditions, and have been known to go all out for some of the "minor" holidays, like Mardi Gras.  Being Catholic and celebrating the beginning of Lent just adds fuel to the fire.  When I saw this recipe, I couldn't resist.  It's Pancake Tuesday with a decidedly New Orleans flair.  Perfect for Shrove Tuesday dinner! If you like sweet, you'll love this syrup!  Serve it over your favorite pancakes, waffles, or french toast.

3/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons banana liqueur
1 tablespoon dark rum
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of salt

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan.  Boil over medium heat for 3 minutes, stirring often.  Serve warm, over pancakes.

Makes 1 cup.

Recipe adapted from Cuisine at Home, February 2014.

Spicy Mussels

To celebrate my graduation from nursing school last August, my mama took me to Charleston for a Girlie Get-Away.  One evening, we enjoyed refreshing cocktails and a bowl of mussels at the rooftop bar of our hotel.  It was my first experience with mussels and I'm so glad I was adventurous enough to try them!  A few months later, when my best friend came to visit, I thought it would be fun to serve mussels for dinner one night.  My BFF's family has a summer home in Maine, and they frequently gather fresh mussels right off the beach for a tasty meal, so I was glad to have her help selecting my mussels at the grocery.  Mussels are an inexpensive, healthy, and elegant main course sure to treat guests at your next dinner party!  As long as your friends don't have shell-fish allergies, serve up something different and try this recipe!

2-4 tablespoons olive oil 
1 small purple onion, chopped
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup fresh basil roughly torn/chopped 
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 cup white wine
¼ cup water
1 can diced tomatoes with juices
4 pounds mussels, scrubbed and beards removed

Clean the mussels under cool water with a soft vegetable brush.  Pull off the "beard" (the long stringy/weedy part attached to some shells).  Discard any mussels with broken shells or any that don't close after you tap them gently.  Mussels must be cooked while alive to prevent contamination that causes illness!

Heat oil in a large heavy saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until tender and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add basil, red pepper flakes, wine, water, and tomatoes. 

Bring everything to a boil, cook for 1 minute. Add mussels, give them a big stir, pop on the lid, lower the heat to medium, and cook about 10 minutes, until the mussels are open.  This time, discard any mussels with tightly closed shells.

Serve hot, with lots of bread to soak up the yummy sauce!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

This Month: Pancake Tuesday/Shrove Tuesday

Although we just had Christmas, I'm already looking forward to next month and the beginning of Lent.  This year, Ash Wednesday is February 18th, making Mardi Gras, also known as Shrove Tuesday (Pancake Tuesday) the 17th.  Shrove Tuesday began as a Pagan ritual, wherein pancakes represented the sun and that by eating pancakes, the Pagans believed they would get light, power, and warmth from the sun.  I'll let you do your own research if you want to know more.  I digress...  Typically on Mardi Gras I order a King Cake (sometimes I make one) and make Cajun food.  But when I came across the recipes in this meal plan, I knew that this year would be different.  I'd recreate the church Pancake Suppers of my youth in my own kitchen...but with the Bananas Foster inspiration of the syrup, we'd still have a taste of the Big Easy.  Oh, and since this meal is so sweet, I didn't need to worry about a King Cake!  Instead, I learned how to make my own sausage to accompany the pancakes!  Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Breakfast Sausage

Coming Soon

I'll be continuing my "theme parties" this year with some exciting menu ideas.  Come back each month to see what I'm serving up for our monthly celebrations!  Look forward to these "holiday" menus:

January:  Pancake Tuesday
February:  Chinese New Year
March:  St. Patrick's Day
April:  Easter Brunch
May:  Cinco de Mayo
June:  Meal-for-a-Neighbor
July:  Bunco Night
August:  Seafood Soiree
September:  Fondue Party
October:  Oktoberfest
November:  Super Bowl Sunday (a bit early)
December:  Christmas Crafts from the Kitchen

Monday, December 29, 2014

Port Wine Cheese Ball

Who doesn't love a cheese ball?!  This is a favorite family appetizer in my family, the perfect precursor to a later meal or addition to the hors d'oeuvres table at a cocktail party.  This year, half of our out-of-town guests were arriving late Christmas evening, pushing our Christmas supper to well after the traditional dinner hour.  I had this cheese ball on hand to hold us over until everyone had arrived and all the gifts had been unwrapped.  It's equally wonderful for a game night snack or a gift to surprise neighbors or a favorite teacher!  Change up the cheese, dried fruit, herbs, and nuts to make the flavor your own!

1 cup tawny port
1 package cream cheese, softened
1 2-cup package shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup dried cherries, chopped
3 tablespoons minced fresh chives, divided
2 teaspoons tawny port
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup chopped pecans

Boil 1 cup tawny port in a small saucepan until reduced to 2 tablespoons.

Combine cream cheese, shredded cheese, cherries, 1 tablespoon chives, remaining 2 teaspoons port, and nutmeg in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Season with salt and pepper.  Stir port syrup into cheese mixture just to swirl.  Roll into a ball.

Combine pecans and remaining chives and spread on a plate or in a shallow dish.  Roll cheese ball into mixture to coat evenly on all sides.  Wrap in plastic and chill until ready to serve.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Spicy Almonds

Growing up, family meals, especially holidays and celebrations, were preceded by "Party Time" when my dad would mix cocktails (or Shirley Temples for the kids) and we'd snack on hors d'oeuvres while my mom finished the cooking.  For my first Christmas in our new home (last year) and the first time we really had the space to spread out, I wanted to have a festive array set out for Party Time.  With two small children, I guessed that Christmas Dinner would be delayed, even with the best planning, and I was right.  We didn't eat until almost 10:00!  Thank goodness we had plenty to tide us over while I finished the main course!

2 cups whole almonds, with the skin
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 or 2 pinches crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Preheat the oven to 325.  

In a medium bowl, combine the almonds with 2 tablespoons water and the salt, tossing to coat evenly.  Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and bake 8 minutes.  

Remove from the oven and drizzle the olive oil over the nuts.  Use a spatula or wooden spoon to mix the nuts until the oil is thoroughly incorporated.  Sprinkle the pepper flakes and garlic powder onto the almonds and mix to coat well.  

Return the almonds to the oven and bake 5-6 minutes more, stirring after 3 minutes to ensure even cooking.  Remove from oven and let cool.

Almonds will keep in an airtight container up to 1 week.

Recipe adapted from the Williams-Sonoma Bride & Groom Cookbook, by Gayle Pirie & John Clark.