Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Coconut Banana Bread

The Daring Bakers’ February 2012 host was – Lis! Lisa stepped in last minute and challenged us to create a quick bread we could call our own. She supplied us with a base recipe and shared some recipes she loves from various websites and encouraged us to build upon them and create new flavor profiles. You can find the full challenge and photos of (almost) everyone's quick breads here.

"Quick bread is called just that as it doesn't require kneading or rising time." (Epicurious via Lis) As is one of the few things I manage to prepare quickly and it lets me pass off cake for breakfast, quick bread is definitely one of my favorite things to make. This Coconut Banana Bread is adapted from Orangette's Banana Bread with Chocolate and Cinnamon Sugar, which has been my starting point for banana-based bread since making it in 2007.

That said I always halve the sugar, skip the topping, swap half the unbleached all-purpose flour for whole wheat and add a little salt every time I make the it isn't that much like the original. But I still credit Molly for my ongoing obsession with banana bread. This time in addition to the usual changes, I  worked in some coconut, a touch of coconut oil and papaya thinking tropical would taste as good as it would feel in February.

Other than the banana overwhelming the papaya, this Coconut Banana Bread didn't disappoint. It is moist and dense with a subtle sweetness and a touch of a crunch from the coconut. Best of all you can almost feel virtuous eating it as the refined sugar and added fat are minimal and there is plenty of fiber. Temperatures upwards of 70 degrees Fahrenheit might still be a ways away but at least I have this bread to comfort me.

Coconut Banana Bread (with Papaya You Can't Taste :/) 
1 Ripe Banana
1 cup Diced Papaya (I'm pretty sure you could use another banana or two in place of the papaya as its flavor wasn't really present.)
2 Eggs
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 tablespoon Coconut Oil
1/2 cup Sugar
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
3/4 cup Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
3/4 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 cup Unsweetened Shredded Coconut (like this reduced fat one that I use)

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. In a mixing bowl, mash the banana and papaya well with a fork or the back of a spoon. Place the tablespoon of coconut oil in a 9 x 5 loaf pan and melt it in the microwave. Pour it into the bowl and use whatever remains to grease the pan.
3. Add the eggs and vanilla extract to the mixing bowl and stir to combine. Then add the flours, sugar, salt, baking soda and coconut. Stir to mix.
4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake approximately 40 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack until cool to the touch before serving (or it will stick to the bottom of the loaf pan and kind of fall apart...or at least that is how it worked for me after a mere 20 minute holding time.)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday Distractions -- Random Links & Recipes Bookmarked

Ready for the weekend? To help you pass your Friday here are the highlights of what distracted me this week online, what I bookmarked that I hope to one day eat, and a picture.      

I don't know how to use torrents, but I know people who do. This clever comic illustrates how HBO is driving people to use them. (via Zak)

Could Pig MRSA be the new Bird Flu? "Microbiology, shows how an antibiotic-susceptible Staph germ passed from humans into pigs, where it became resistant to the antibiotics tetracycline and methicillin."

The Abortion Distortion: Just how pro-choice is America, really? by Jennifer Senior offered a memorable commentary on abortion, so much so that I actually remember the article two years later.

Shame isn't the solution for teachers or anywhere else.

Chrissie Wellington, a four-time World Ironman champion, offers good tips for athletic success in Ironman champ: Train your brain, then your body. "It sounds simple, but it's so easy to forget. If we let our head drop, our heart drops with it. Keep your head up, and your body is capable of amazing feats." 

Recipes Bookmarked
Date and Shallot Rosemary Chicken at PaleOMG
Gin & Honey-Soaked Mandarin Champagne Cocktails at Always Order Dessert
Swedish Semlor at NPR

 Barcelona Cathedral, Barcelona, Spain, September 2009

Somebody That I Used To Know

Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday Distractions -- Random Links & Recipes Bookmarked

Ready for the weekend? To help you pass your Friday here are the highlights of what distracted me this week online, what I bookmarked that I hope to one day eat, and a picture.     

If I am near Concord, MA I want to eat at the Fife and Drum... It is cheap eats, a cause worth supporting and, most importantly, just sounds good!

My Current Desktop

This seems like a plausible explanation for many good concerts ending up in Charlottesville, VA instead of Richmond. Thank goodness for The National booking great shows in spite of whatever obstacles exist.

I caught When Weather Changed History: Race to Nome on The Weather Channel in October and thought it was a great story. This NY Times article touches on the story and points out that the dog statue in Central Park is one of the dog's from the race. To summarize the "race" - a series of dog sleds and mushers transported serum to treat diphtheria 674 miles in 5.5 days saving the isolated town of Nenana, Alaska (population 1,400) in 1925.

I need to hike again! These Pacific Crest Trail Moleskin Journals are inspiring. (via 101 Cookbooks

Recipes Bookmarked
Stuffed Apricots with Maple-Gorgonzola at Always Order Dessert
Maria Speck's Artichoke Tart with Polenta Crust at The Wednesday Chef (via 101 Cookbooks
Make Perfect, Restaurant-Style Shredded Chicken in Your Mixer (via Courtney!)

Gardenia Bonsai! February 2012, Mechanicsville, VA
(Loved this surprise! I couldn't stop saying wow and beaming upon receiving it. :D)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Burgers To Keep Vampires Away and Miso-Braised Bok Choy with Edamame and Carrots

The Daring Cooks’ February 2012 challenge was hosted by Audax & Lis and they chose to present Patties for their ease of construction, ingredients and deliciousness! We were given several recipes, and learned the different types of binders and cooking methods to produce our own tasty patties!

I did some learning...after having already purchased my very compacted and rather lean burger while my patties held nicely they weren't super soft.  Next time I'll go with fattier meat that isn't vacuum packed and be more aggressive with indenting the middle of the burgers to keep things light and more toward burger than meatball.

The good news is meatballs are just as tasty as burgers! Even when they have a vampire-fighting level of garlic inside. 27 minutes in the oven isn't long enough to mellow the flavor so unless you love, love, love garlic I'd reduce the tablespoon. You'll still get all the umami, especially if you plate it with the Miso-Braised Bok Choy with Edamame and Carrots.

Burgers To Keep Vampires Away

1 pound 85/15 Hamburger
1 tablespoon Minced Garlic
1 tablespoon Fish Sauce
1 Flax Egg (Combine 1 tablespoon ground flax seed with 3 of hot water and let it sit for 15 minutes to gel.)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a pan with foil.
2. Combine the gelled flax egg, hamburger and minced garlic in a bowl. Mix with your hands, gently.
3. Once everything is mixed up, use your hands to form patties...ideally of the same size and shape... Indent the patties with your thumb.
4. Bake, turning once, for approximately 27 minutes or until their internal temperature reads 160 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Miso-Braised Bok Choy with Edamame and Carrots

1/2 cup Water
1 tablespoon Miso Paste
1.5 pounds of Bok Choy
15 Baby Carrots
1 cup frozen, shelled Edamame

1. Cut off the bottom of the bok choy, so the leaves separate. Rinse them in cold water several times until all grit is gone. Cut baby carrots into thin strips.
2. Pour water into a large saucepan with a lid. Bring to a simmer.
3. Add miso paste to the water and swirl until it dissolves. Allow it to simmer a little more to reduce the water a bit.
4. Add bok choy and carrot to the saucepan. Cover. Let it cook, stirring occasionally, once the bok choy begins to wilt add the edamame.
5. Once the bok choy is completely wilted, remove from heat and serve.

And Happy Valentine's Day! These are a work in progress... Maybe next year I'll have the perfect meringues. In the meantime my multi-year tradition of a savory Daring Cook's post on Valentine's Day continues.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Friday Distractions -- Random Links & Recipes Bookmarked

Ready for the weekend? To help you pass your Friday here are the highlights of what distracted me this week online, what I bookmarked that I hope to one day eat, and a picture.    

Siku, a most adorable polar bear, meets snow. (via Courtney)

These vegetables are beautiful...and I'm sure the buttery spread is alright too. (via Epicurious)

"As an American, I condemn a Republican “Fascist” just as much I condemn a Democratic “Communist.”  I condemn a Democrat “Fascist” just as much as I condemn a Republican “Communist.”  They are equally dangerous to you and me and to our country.  As an American, I want to see our nation recapture the strength and unity it once had when we fought the enemy instead of ourselves." Margaret Chase Smith's Declaration of Conscience

This story's headline sounds like something the Enquirer would have printed when I was a kid... 83 Year-Old Woman Gets the World's First 3D Printed Replacement Jaw. (also via Courtney)

I want to watch Inside Nature's Giants...though I'm a little afraid it will turn my stomach.
(via From Inside Lions and Leviathans, Anatomist Builds a Following)

Recipes Bookmarked
Horseradish at All Our Fingers in the Pie
Individual Sauerkraut Mac and Cheese at Not Eating Out in NY

DC from the Key Bridge, Rosslyn, VA, September 2005

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Moroccan Stew

This bright, yellow Moroccan Stew warms you from the inside out much like sunshine on your back on an otherwise damp, grey day. The beans and cumin's earthiness could sit heavy on the palate, but the sweetness of the raisins and cinnamon juxtaposed with the garam masala's spiciness makes this dish a party for the mouth.

That isn't to this stew is a light meal. It is incredibly filling  - likely due to the abundance of fiber and carbohydrates it provides. In fact, I ultimately decided against serving it with brown rice or plain yogurt as I didn't think it needed additional bulk.

If you need to buy red lentils, Indian/Moroccan spices or even non-local okra, I recommend Laxmi Palace in Richmond. The prices there are great and they have lots of items you will not find at a typical grocery store. Just be prepared when you go for the intense smell of curry.

Moroccan Stew
Slightly adapted from Spicy Red Lentil and Chickpea Stew (Paula's Moroccan Lentil Stew) at Kayln's Kitchen with reference to Moroccan Chickpea and Vegetable Stew at Everybody Likes Sandwiches and The Flavor Bible
Serves 6-8 (my yield was 7.5 cups) 

1 large Onion, chopped
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
1 teaspoon minced Ginger (I used The Ginger People's.)
1 tablespoon minced Garlic
1 teaspoon ground Turmeric
1 cup diced Green Pepper
1/2 teaspoon Garam Masala (Mine is spicy, so I omitted the cayenne from the recipe.)
1 teaspoon ground Coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground Cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground Cumin
6 cups Stock (I used 2 cups of reduced sodium beef stock and 4 cups of vegetable stock.)
1 1/2 cups Red Lentils
1 - 14 1/2 ounce can Chickpeas, drained and thoroughly rinsed
1 - 14 1/2 ounce can Diced Tomatoes in Juice
1/2 cup Raisins
Salt to taste (I used an additional 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt.)

1. Heat olive oil in a heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid (my beloved Le Creuset dutch oven was perfect) over medium heat. Add onions, ginger, garlic, and turmeric and cook stirring often until onions are soft, about 7 minutes
2. Add green pepper, garam masala, ground coriander, ground cinnamon and ground cumin. Cook, stirring occasionally, until green pepper begins to soften.
3. Add the stock, red lentils, canned tomatoes, and rinsed chickpeas and bring mixture to a gentle boil.
4. Once it begins to bubble reduce the heat to a simmer and cover pot with lid. Allow stew to simmer approximately one hour stirring occasionally. About 15 minutes before the dish is done, toss in the raisins so they get plump, juicy and delicious.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Friday Distractions -- Random Links & Recipes Bookmarked

Ready for the weekend? To help you pass your Friday here are the highlights of what distracted me this week online, what I bookmarked that I hope to one day eat and a picture.    

Uneasy Rider, an interview with Mike DeStefano, made me tear up at the end. It captures a significant moment in the deceased comedian's life. (via The Improvised Life)

Kristen Bell's Sloth Meltdown made me laugh so hard. If you somehow managed to miss it, you have to watch! My Dad said her reaction reminded him of me... I'm going to take that as a compliment.

United Egg Producers and the Humane Society of the United State have joined forces to try and improve the lives of the egg-producing hens. Read about their surprising collaboration here.

30 Things to Stop Doing to Yourself and 30 Things to Start Doing for Yourself

A glimpse at Sunnylands, the estate built by Walter H. and Leonore Annenberg that is becoming a conference center. The view out the door in the first photo looks like it's a green screen.

Recipes Bookmarked
Buttermilk Roast Chicken at Smitten Kitchen
Dirty-Rice Collard Green Bundles at Epicurious
Ghee at Deliciously Organic
No-cook pumpkin chocolate icebox pie at Sunset
Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi at Simply Recipes

 Duomo, Milan, Italy, July 2006

Sharon Van Etten's Album can be streamed here. It's awesome... I hadn't heard of her. Thanks to Jon recommending it on facebook.