Life, Left Over

Archive for the ‘Food Friday’ Category

Yeah I have like NO time for this. Haha. I wanted to feature a recipe for Stuffed Shells today, but that didn’t pan out. Here instead is another pictureless copout. It is DELICIOUS though.

Fast and satisfying, this recipe requires only three ingredients and is utterly idiotproof. We make them frequently in our house. A+, all the way.

Ingredients:
Bananas
Milk
Brown sugar and/or Vanilla

Equipment:
Blender

The Process:
I make this recipe with 2 bananas and end up with about 4 cups at the end. This can serve two, but usually just one. 😉 Adjust your amounts accordingly!
Peel your banana and break up into 2 or 3 pieces. Put in the blender with a cup or two of milk. Let the blender chew on that a little to break up the banana.

Add a bit of brown sugar, or vanilla, or both. I prefer brown sugar – I feel like it adds a “darkness” to the final drink, and adds just a hint of sweetness. If you’re watching calories, vanilla will help kick the flavors up a notch. Adding both is even better. 🙂 I’ve literally never measured the sugar – just do it to taste. I wouldn’t add more than 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla though. (If you’re a big fan of bananas, you could skip the additions altogether, but I never have.) Please don’t add plain white sugar (even the organic kind) – it will taste grainy. I’ve never tried any sugar substitutes – let me know if you have success with one!

Add milk and blend that all up until it’s at your desired consistency and taste. I like it a little on the chunky side.

Pour it into a glass and enjoy heartily. Refrigerate the leftovers, if you have any (you won’t).

My Thoughts:
Like I said before, we make this a LOT at our house. It makes an excellent late-night snack, with the sweetness of a dessert and none of the regret of a sugary treat. It’s even better with bananas that are starting to get all brown and mushy, but not quite far enough along to make banana bread. It’s light and banana-y, and easy to make it to the texture you prefer. A+, forever.

Do you have a go-to snack for the middle of the night? Which end do you peel bananas from? Will you be sad when bananas go extinct? Please share your thoughts in the comments!

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Wow, this week seemed to FLY by! I’ve got a lot to do this weekend, so here’s a quick recipe for you. This one is best as a side dish or appetizer, and is a good way to use up surplus zucchini from the market or your garden. I based these on this recipe at Eclectic Recipes, and made it the day after the Ratatouille (since I had extra zucchinis, and this recipe came to my attention that day). This is a good alternative to deep-fried veggie appetizers (love those, by the way), too. Read on!

Ingredients:
Zucchini, sliced into coins
Salt
Bread crumbs
Grated Parmesan cheese
Onion powder
Garlic powder
Dried Basil & Oregano
Milk
Non-stick spray

Equipment:
drying rack
baking sheet
a couple of bowls
two forks
paper towels


The bananas are still irrelevant.

The Process:

Slice your zucchini (I suspect you could also use yellow squash, or any type of squash, really) and lay them out on the drying rack, with the baking pan underneath. Sprinkle liberally with salt. This will draw out the moisture inside the squash and prevent them from becoming mushy. Let sit for a few minutes, flip, and salt again.

Meanwhile, assemble your coating supplies. Mix the breadcrumbs and spices and cheese. I actually forgot the cheese completely, and didn’t have any onion powder. Feel free to season yours however you choose. Put a small amount of milk in a bowl (only a tablespoon or two). It looks like I have a lot of breadcrumbs here, but I actually ran out of them before I ran out of zucchini, so plan accordingly. Now is also the time to preheat your oven – get that hotbox up to 450°F.

Use a paper towel to dry the remaining moisture from your zucchini, pressing a little to get them as dry as possible. Rinse and dry your baking sheet (or use a clean one, whichever), and spray with nonstick spray. (A very very thin layer of non-aerosol oil would also be fine.)

Dip the vegetable coins in the milk and then coat them in breadcrumbs. This is what the recipe says to do, and that’s what I did, but I don’t think it worked very well. The milk isn’t sticky and the crumbs therefore didn’t stay on the zucchini. Lay out your “breaded” zucchini on the baking sheet.

Pop the pan into the oven and set your timer for 5 minutes. When it goes off, take them out and use two forks to carefully flip them all over, and bake for another 5 minutes.


See? The breading didn’t stick very well.

Let them cool, and serve. I used Ranch dressing as a dippie, but use whatever you like!

My Thoughts:
First, I definitely have to reiterate that the milk was insufficient for breading. The addition of an egg or even some oil to the milk would add a lot of stickiness. I also thought of using something like honey mustard (one of my favorite breading stickers for chicken). So maybe I’ll try these again, redux.
These were easy and quick to make. I sliced the zucchini and let them drain while I loaded the dishwasher, so it’s great if you’re in a time crunch (guests coming over in 20 minutes?). It takes only a tiny bit of space, so it’s cool if half of your kitchen is dirty. You can use any spices you like, and breadcrumbs are easy to make out of the heels of your sandwich loaf, so this is definitely a recipe that you can make anytime – you already have all the ingredients!
The finished product was soft and tasty. For those who don’t like the semi-slimy texture of cooked zucchinis (it’s a good thing I made this on a night when Hubby was not home), you may want to pass on this recipe. These were not floppy, but they definitely had a bit of the mush-factor. I don’t mind that, so I was happy. Despite the difficulty getting the crumbs to stick, the breading was good. Very crispy and flavorful. Ranch was a good companion.
As an alternative to deep-fried veggies, I think this stacks up pretty well. If fried is what you want, it won’t compare, but as far as taste and easy-to-make, this baked version wins. I’m giving this recipe a final grade of B. Needs some improvement, but still good.

Anybody else have picky husbands? Need to cook around the mess in your kitchen? How many people have problems with the texture of foods? Leave your suggestions, questions, and ideas in the comments!

Welcome to the last day of Pumpkin Extravaganza! Today we’re finally going to cook and EAT the pumpkins! You can use the pumpkin pureé from yesterday’s post. If you have made too many other recipes and are now out of pumpkins, you can also use canned pumpkin. One 15-ounce can is approximately equal to 2 cups of pumpkin pureé. If you get “pumpkin pie filling,” it’ll already have spices and sugars in it (and who knows what else), so be careful, and adjust the recipe to fit what you’ve got!

Ingredients for Pumpkin Muffins:
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups pumpkin
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup brown sugar

Equipment:
muffin tin (and papers if desired)
several measuring cups
large bowl
fork for stirring
spoon for distributing batter

This recipe will follow the Muffin Method. Those of you who are familiar with that can toddle off and make it. 🙂 I adapted this recipe myself, but you can find dozens of others with a simple click over to Google. I like mine because it uses sweetened condensed milk, which is thick and syrupy. I think it yields softer, moister muffins.
Everybody preheat your oven to 350° F and prepare your muffin pans.

First thing you want to do is combine the sugar, baking powder and soda, spices, and salt in a bowl. (If you’re using salted butter, leave out the salt.) In another bowl (or large measuring cup), combine the pumpkin, butter, condensed milk, and brown sugar. (You can substitute 1/2 cup of evaporated milk for the condensed, but your batter will be wetter. You may also want to add 1/4 cup of sugar if you do this substitution.)

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and use a fork to mix them. Incorporate all the flour mixture (dig down to the bottom of the bowl), but the batter will be slightly lumpy. If you see any small dry pockets while you’re distributing the batter, that’s okay.


Keep stirring.

Using a spoon (or a disher if you’re really fancy), distribute your delicious batter into the muffin pans. I got a dozen average-sized muffins and nearly 2 dozen mini muffins this time.

Bake them at 350°. The baking time will vary depending on the size of your muffins. I go for about 20 minutes on standard muffins, and about 8 for minis. When in doubt, guess, and be extra-diligent on your toothpick test.

Yesterday, when we were processing our pumpkin flesh, we ended up with a bowl of seeds. I hope you didn’t throw them away, because they can quickly and easily be made into delicious pepitas! There are many recipes out there for these as well; I’m going to use my preferred method. I’m using the spices called for in this recipe on Food.com.

Ingredients:
pumpkin seeds
various spices / sugar
egg white

Equipment:
colander
baking sheet
large bowl

Pour your seeds into the colander and give them a good wash. Pick out any “duds” you find. Lay them out on paper towels and pat dry. If you want, you can “hull” your seeds now (remove the light-colored outer coating), but I prefer to hull them while I’m eating them. Your call.

You will need about one egg white for every 2 cups of seeds. Beat your egg white until frothy. The egg white will help the spices to stick to the seeds. Dump all of your ingredients – seeds, egg, spices, sugar – into a large bowl and toss until the seeds are well coated.

Spread them out on a baking sheet (spray with nonstick spray!) and bake at 350° for a while. The reference recipe I used said 20, but mine took closer to 40. Give them a stir every 5 minutes or so, and watch for them to become golden and dry.

Let them cool, and store in an airtight container. If you left the hulls on, you’ll need to crack the hull to reach the inner seed, just like eating sunflower seeds.

This concludes our Pumpkin Extravaganza! I’ll be spending the weekend carving and eating all the pumpkins I can get my hands on – how about you?

I always expected Ratatouille to be a difficult dish. I was surprised to find that it was not only easy, it was relatively fast! I made it on Wednesday night, loosely following this recipe from The Kitchn. I’d estimate it took about an hour from start to finish, mostly hands-off. It seems obvious now, but once I realized this is the ancestor to jambalaya, it became much easier to understand. This is very much a “throw what you have in the pot” kind of meal, so you can substitute and estimate on your whim. This is a great way to use up odds and ends, or the green tomatoes you had to bring in before the freeze. Overall, I’d give this recipe about a B+. It was good, but slightly bland. I have some ideas to improve it for next time. Read on!

Ingredients for Ratatouille
Bananas are irrelevant.

Ingredients:
1 eggplant, peeled and cut into cubes
1 or 2 zucchini, coined
1 or 2 bell peppers, roughly chopped (just estimate the amount)
3 cloves garlic, whole
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 yellow onion
1 bay leaf
3-4 sprigs thyme (I used Herbes de Provence)
2 or 3 large tomatoes, cut into large chunks (again, just estimate)
1 can of tomato sauce (especially if you use green tomatoes like I did)
Vegetable oil
Salt and pepper

Equipment:
large saucepan
sauté pan
paring knife or peeler
chef’s knife
stirring utensil

I approximately halved the recipe, and made use of some of the remnants from my garden. The peppers were small and the tomatoes (except for one) were still green. I really liked the green tomatoes in the finished product. If you don’t have any fresh tomatoes, try using one undrained can of whole tomatoes (that’s what the recipe suggested) – diced tomatoes would probably also work.
The amount of zucchini in the picture is much more than I ended up using. I couldn’t fit them all in my sauté pan.
This served two people, with plenty left over.

The Process
First, you’ll want to gather all your ingredients and do all the chopping and slicing. This can be done in advance if you prefer.

Warm some oil in the bottom of your saucepan and toss in the onions. Let them cook, stirring occasionally, until they are beginning to brown. Add the minced garlic and the chopped peppers. Cook and stir again until the peppers are soft.

Peppers and Onions

At this point, add your tomato products, spices, and the garlic cloves. Stir to combine and turn down to a simmer.

Rat Tat Tomatoes

Now, turn your attention to the eggplant and zucchini. Warm some oil in the sauté pan and toss in the vegetation.

Eggplant and Zucchini

Let them get soft and brown and toss them into the pot with everything else, along with salt and pepper, if you so desire. (If you don’t want to dirty another pan, you can just throw these in along with everything else, but the original recipe advised against this, and I think they benefited from the process.)

Almost done!

Now is when you’ll want to start whatever you’re serving the ratatouille with. We went with brown rice. Just leave the stew pot simmering, giving it a stir every now and then. When the rice is done (about 20 minutes), the stew will be ready to serve.

Finished Ratatouille
It looks kindof mushy. But it’s actually pretty chunky, especially with the green tomatoes.

Fish out the whole garlic cloves and the bay leaf. Heap the rice into bowls and cover with the stew, and devour! It’s even better if you slice up a baguette to go with it.

Ratatouille and Rice
Sorry, this picture is a bit blurry.

Our Thoughts
Let it first be said that my husband doesn’t like either zucchini or eggplant. With that knowledge, I’ll tell you that we both agreed that it was tasty. He’s very picky about texture, and this has a pleasant one. It’s very much like a chunky vegetarian spaghetti sauce. Our complaint was that it seemed rather bland. Perhaps I didn’t put enough spices.
We eventually decided that what it really needs is a savory kick. Next time we make it, we’ll commit sacrilege on this ancient vegetarian recipe and include some kind of meat. I feel like lamb would probably be most authentic, but more than likely it’ll be chunks of beef.
I can definitely see this being a great slow cooker meal for a crowd, and there are also recipes out there that use the oven (mmm, roasted vegetables). I had the leftovers for lunch on Thursday, and I daresay it was better than before.

Am I the only one who thought Ratatouille would be hard? And the only one who didn’t know it was just like jambalaya? Who else loved the Pixar movie? Do you have a suggestion for improving this recipe? Share your thoughts about this recipe in the comments! (And I’m always open to suggestions for my next Food Friday!)


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