Thursday, July 28, 2011

Quick Panzanella (Italian Bread Salad)

Too hot to cook?  I've got a solution for you.  Panzanella!  It's an Italian bread salad that is bursting with flavor.  Plus, its simple to put together.  Let it marinate in the fridge for a few hours and you're good to go!

Purdum's, Western Idaho's favorite vegetable stand, is finally open.  I picked up some pickling cukes there and used them in the salad.  Yum!  So happy the veggie stands are finally starting to pop up again.  So head to your local farmers market or veggie stand and get started!

Quick Panzanella
1/3 of a sourdough baguette, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 lg tomato, chopped
1/2 cucumber, peeled and chopped
2 Tbsp fresh basil, slivered
2 Tbsp Olive oil
2 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar (reduced to a syrup, then measured)
salt and pepper to taste

-Combine all ingredients in a bowl, toss well, cover with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator for a few hours.  Stir well again and serve.

Have you seen 'Extra Virgin' on the cooking channel?  I love it!  Actress Debi Mazar cooks with her Italian husband, Gabriele Corcos.  The two are hilarious!  She has the New York accent and he has an Italian accent.  Highly entertaining and the food looks wonderful.  They made Panzanella a bit differently by rinsing the bread in water and squeezing it out, adding onions, etc.  They also never use sourdough bread, but I like the flavor it brings to the salad.  Plus, its what I had in the house.  There you go!

Summer is in full swing and many people are camping.  A coworker brought a little creature back from the fire pit of the campground.  Someone obviously was extremely bored in the woods.  Check this out...

What is it?  A potato mouse?  Who knows.  Just watch out when you're in the woods.  There are some very strange individuals out there!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Banana Cake with Banana Cream Topping

So, I ended up with 9 bananas in my Bountiful Basket.  I like bananas and all, but I can only eat so many in a week.  Plus, if you put too many in your smoothie, all you taste is bananas.  I didn't have room in the freezer so I decided to make a banana cake.

The recipes are based off of some from All Recipes, but I tweaked them a bit to fit what I had on hand.  This is a bit like banana bread, but lighter.  YUM!

Banana Cake with Banana Cream Topping
3/4 cup butter, softened
1-1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3 lg eggs
2-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup buttermilk*
2 very ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup mini chocolate chips

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Add vanilla and beat well.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

2.  Whisk together flours, salt, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon.  Slowly add to the butter mixture and stir just until blended.  While stirring, slowly pour in the buttermilk.*

3.  Mash the bananas with a whisk.  Fold in the mashed bananas and chocolate chips.  The batter should look like this:

4.  Spray a 9x13 pan with oil.  Pour in the batter and use a rubber spatula to even out the top.  Bake in the center of the oven for 20 minutes, turn the cake around, and bake an additional 30 minutes.  The cake is done when a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

5.  Allow cake to cool completely before topping with banana cream.

*If you do not have buttermilk on hand, place 1 Tbsp white vinegar in the bottom of a 1-cup measure.  Fill to the 1-cup line with milk and let stand for 5 minutes to thicken.  It may curdle a bit, but it will be ok!

Banana Cream**:
1 very ripe banana, mashed
1 (3 oz.) envelope banana cream pudding
3/4 cup cold milk
1 small container Cool Whip
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted (optional)

1.  Whip the banana until shiny and smooth.
2.  Add the milk and stir well.  Then add the pudding mix.  Beat on medium low speed for 2 minutes or until slightly thickened.

3.  Fold in the container of cool whip.

4.  Use to top the banana cake, and top with toasted pecans.

**I found that the Banana Cream recipe was enough to top two 9x13 cakes.  If you do not want to make two cakes, it is also good on ice cream with chocolate sauce or over angle food cake.

I am happy to say that all bananas are used up and the folks at work will be very happy during their coffee break tomorrow.  :D

Summer Sangria

Holy Hot Temps, people!  It has been quite warm outside.  Nice because my laundry tends to dry quickly, but not so good for walking pups and playing outside.  But I have a cure.  Something that will make you feel much better.  Something to sip with a good friend on the back porch.  Or the front porch. Or the sidewalk.  However you roll...

SANGRIA!!  The official drink of summer.  And winter.  Well, anytime, really.  I like making white sangria in the summer and red sangria in the winter.  Both are delicious and refreshing.  Here's how I make white sangria:

White Sangria
1 bottle (750 ml) White Wine (I chose Orange Muscat wine-- its already sweet)*
1 nectarine, pitted and chopped
1 plum, pitted and chopped
1 apple, cored and chopped
1 tangerine or orange
sugar, to taste
20 oz. club soda or lemon-lime soda

1.  Place the chopped fruit in the bottom of your pitcher.

Isn't it pretty??  I thought so...

2.  Pour in the wine.

3.  Juice in the orange or tangerine.  Tip: use a paper towel to strain out any seeds.

4.  Stir everything together and let it sit overnight at room temperature.  In the morning, taste it.  Add sugar if it needs it.  Because I started with a sweet wine, I didn't add any sugar.  Put the whole thing in the refrigerator and chill at least 4 hours.

5.  When ready to drink, stir in cold club soda or lemon lime soda.  Serve over ice, if desired.  The fruit is good to nibble on if it drops into the glass-- but it absorbs a lot of the alcohol so watch out!

*Other wines I like to use: Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc or Viogner.  Just be sure to begin with a wine you like to drink.  Remember-- if you begin with crap, you'll just have fruit flavored crap at the end. Wink wink!

My silly camera decided to erase the pics I took of the sangria in the glass.  I'll catch it next time!

Happy Summer!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Grilled French Dip

I feel very lucky to live in a rental with air conditioning. The only problem with said A/C is that it doesn't seem to cool the kitchen.  Mental note: get box fan for kitchen.  For some reason, the A/C seems to work better in the front of the rental where the living room is.  That means that the bedroom and kitchen are warmer.  I can deal with it, but I try to keep the heat out of the kitchen during the hot days of summer. 

This is something that is easy and quick to prepare-- a French Dip sandwich.  One of my favorites!  The grill added a nice smokiness.  So yummy!

So, the backyard was shady.  Very nice to cook in but not so nice to take photos in.  Oh well.  You'll get the idea. 

Grilled French Dip
French Style Baguette or hoagie (I got the bake-at-home kind)
Butter or Olive Oil
Roast Beef
Swiss Cheese (thinly sliced)
Au Jus (I like Johnny's because I can make as much as I want!)

1.  Preheat grill over medium heat.  Spit bread in half and brush all sides with olive oil or butter.  Place bread on grill and let cook (grill lid closed) for 2-3 minutes, cut side down, until toasted.

2.  Flip bread over and put cheese on it.  Place thinly sliced beef on the grill and close the lid.  After one minute, flip the beef.

3.  Remove when cheese is melted.  Assemble sandwich and serve with Au Jus.  I just made 1/2 cup in the microwave while the bread was cooking.

See that green stuff poking out from the far end of the plate?  It came from my garden!!  :)

Hope you enjoyed this post.  What do you do to beat the heat?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Reheating Tip for Leftover Pizza

I went to Zumba last night for the first time in about a month.  Holy cow!  I was tired, hot and sweaty by the time I got home.  Not exactly in the mood for cooking either.  A quick glance in the fridge produced some options, but pizza sounded the best.  Here's my dilemma-- I kinda hate leftover pizza.  If you microwave it, the crust is soft and the cheese and toppings lose flavor.  If you stick it back in the oven, the crust burns by the time the toppings are nice and hot.  There are two methods I use for reheating pizza:  the grill method that I discovered last night and the skillet method.

Grill Method for Reheating Pizza
Step 1:  Place Pizza stone on a cool grill (I got mine at World Market-- it's about 12" in diameter and fits nicely on my little webber grill). 

Step 2:  Light grill and turn up heat to medium high.  Let preheat for 15 minutes or so.  I used this time to water my patio garden out back, cursing the black beetle and earwig I found on my zucchini plant. 

Step 3:  Place pizza on the stone.  I put mine on a little piece of aluminum foil as leftover pizza cheese tends to ooze and I don't like cleaning oozed cheese off my stone. 

Step 4:  Close the lid and let cook for 7 minutes or so.  The cheese should be melted and the crust crispy.  Remove carefully from the stone and enjoy!

Skillet Method for Reheating Pizza
Step 1:  Place a 12" or larger skillet with a lid on the stove.  Do not preheat.

Step 2:  Put 1-2 sliced of pizza into the skillet and place the lid on top.  Heat over medium low heat for 7 to 10 minutes, or until pizza cheese is melted and crust is crispy but not burnt.

If reheating more pizza, turn the heat to low to heat additional slices.

What are you doing to keep the heat out of the kitchen this summer?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Black and Blue Cobbler

Summer is here and you know what that means-- Blackberries!  I love blackberries in cobblers, dessert sauces and jams, but I'm not a huge fan of eating them raw.  Not sure why.  When Ty and I lived in Pullman, WA, I used to fill up my lunch bucket on my way home from school.  Huge bushes grew wild there.  I turned one batch into jam using a bit of grape juice. 

This weekend, we got a pack of big juicy blackberries in our Bountiful Basket.  I also had some blueberries that needed to get used up, so I made Black and Blue Cobbler this morning for breakfast.  Everyone at work loved it!  This recipe is super simple and can be made using any combination of fresh or frozen berries.  I'm sure stone fruits like plums, nectarines and peaches would work as well. 

I based my recipe on one from, but changed it up a bit.  I made my cobbler a bit more healthy by making my own self-rising flour with half whole wheat flour.  Hope you enjoy!

Black and Blue Cobbler
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1-1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup sugar
1 cup milk
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled to room temp.
2-1/2 cups fresh or frozen berries (I used 1 cup blackberries and 1-1/2 cups blueberries)
1/4 cup sugar

1.  Preheat oven to 350°F.  Lightly grease a 9" x 12" pan (mine is metal).

2.  Whisk together flours, salt, baking powder and sugar.  Whisk in milk until just combined.  Slowly whisk in the melted butter.  Pour evenly into prepared pan.  The batter will be loose like pancake batter.

3.  Sprinkle fruit over the top of the batter, then sprinkle with sugar.

4.  Bake at 350°F for approximately an hour, or until the top is golden and the fruit is bubbly.  The batter will rise over the top of the fruit creating a luscious berry layer. 

5.  Cool about 10 minutes, then serve warm.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Mexican Hot Sauce

There is a little Mexican Restaurant in Downtown Idaho Falls that has been there FOREVER.  It used to be called 'MiCasa's' but changed to 'Plum Loco' a while ago.  This restaurant is great!  Everything there is good.  One thing that is unique is their hot sauce.  Each table gets the customary basket full of chips, but instead of the traditional salsa, a squeeze bottle full of spicy tangy hot sauce is served.  This stuff is addicting.  Don't say I didn't warn you!  A friend of mine gave me the recipe for the spice mix and I altered it to fit my taste.  For a less spicy sauce, reduce the amount of crushed red pepper flakes.  Serve over just about any Mexican food-- I like mine best on Crunchy Tacos or chips.

Thanks for the spice mix recipe, Leslie!

Mexican Hot Sauce
Spice Mix:
     3/4 cup chili powder
     3/4 cup cumin
     1/4 cup oregano
     2 Tbsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes (more or less to taste)
     3/8 cup salt
     3/4 tsp garlic salt
-Mix ingredients together to blend well.  I store mine in a plastic baggie.

Hot Sauce:
     2 tsp Spice Mix
     8 oz. can tomato sauce
     1-2 Tbsp white vinegar
-Mix well until blended.  I store mine in a squeeze bottle in the fridge.  Should keep for a couple of weeks (if it lasts that long).

And in other news-- how is your garden growing this year?  Mine is doing quite well.  I've been out of town lately and a friend has been watering my garden every day.  Out front, the parsley is about 6 inches high, the tomatoes are beginning flower, the lettuce is going gangbusters (its on the taco), and the carrots are about 8 inches high.  Out back is another story....

My tomato plants are LOADED with tomatoes.

Zucchini is also quite happy.

And this little beauty should be ready to eat tonight.  Wahoo!!

Hope you have a great week!  Thanks for stopping by!