February 28, 2011

Sticky Toffee Banana Pudding

The brand new issue of bon appetit arrived last week, and an instant family favorite was born! 

toffee sauce
1 1/4 plus 3 T heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup packed golden brown sugar
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1/4 unsalted butter
banana cake
2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup mashed very ripe bananas (approx. 3)
1 T dark rum
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
sliced banana as garnish

For toffee sauce: Bring 1 1/4 cups cream, brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, and 1/8 tsp salt to boil in heavy small saucepan over medium heat, whisking until sugar dissolves.  Reduce heat to medium-low and cook at gentle boil until sauce coats spoon thickly and is reduced to 1 1/2 cups, whisking occasionally, about 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and cool.  Whisk in 3 T or more cream to thin sauce to desired consistency.  Can be done ahead, up to two days.  Cover and chill, rewarm slightly before serving. 

For banana cake: preheat oven to 350 f. Butter 8x8x2 nonstick metal baking pan.  Dust baking pan with flour, tapping out excess.  Whisk flour, baking powder, and 1/2 tsp salt in medium bowl.  Using electric mixer, beat butter and sugar in large bowl until well blended.  Beat in eggs 1 at a time.  Beat in mashed bananas, rum, and vanilla (batter will look curdled).  Add dry ingredients in 4 additions, beating just to blend after each addition.  Spread batter evenly in prepared baking pan.
Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, 35 to 38 minutes.  Spread 1/2 cup toffee sauce evenly over cake.  Return cake to oven and bake until sauce is bubbling thickly, about 6 minutes.  Cool cake in pan on rack 30 minutes. Cut around cake in pan.  Serve cake slightly warm or at room temperature with toffee sauce on top, with sliced banana if desired. 

Helpful Hints
I don't usually stock dark brown sugar, so I used golden brown in the toffee instead.  It was pretty good, but a dark brown sugar would have made for a richer flavor.  Also, I don't have dark rum so I used regular instead.  This step can probably be left out altogether since the amount is negligible and I didn't notice the flavor anyway.
I used my regular corning ware pan since I don't have a metal pan that size and the cake baked just fine.  And I passed on the sliced bananas on top, my bananas were very brown and not suitable for garnish.
(This recipe can be found on page 103, March 2011 issue)


February 24, 2011

The absolute BEST brand of tea!!

The rain is starting and the cold is settling in.  Snow flurries are called for this weekend, which hasn't happened in the Sacramento area since the mid 70's.  Everyone is freaking out, but still secretly hoping it might stick for more than a few moments, at least long enough to scoop some up.  This is definitely the afternoon for hot tea.  I love tea in the winter, and in the summer I brew it, cool it, and add ice!  A few years ago we discovered Stash brand of tea.  They make fabulous regular and herbal teas in all sorts of interesting flavors. So here I sit, after putting together a spinach and bacon quiche for dinner (which I may or may not blog about later), and take a few quiet moments before everyone comes home and the chaos starts!!


February 21, 2011

Is this a repeat???

Beef, Baley & Kale Soup

Okay, I can't keep track.  If this is a repeat I'm sorry....
The original recipe I got from my dad several years ago.

One head of kale, chopped fine
Chuck steak, about a pound, cubed small
1/2 cup uncooked barley (or to taste)
1 or two carrots, diced small
1 or two stalks of celery, sliced small
1 small onion, chopped
garlic, to taste

Brown beef in hot pan with a small amount of veg. oil.  Add onions and cook a few minutes.  Use one quart beef broth (or veg. broth), and add the rest of the vegetables.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 6 or seven hours.  Add barley approximately 2 hours before serving. 

Helpful hints

Don't skip the long simmer time.  Kale takes a long time to become soft.
Use whatever veggies you want, such as mushrooms.
Never add salt to soup when using a pre-made broth.  They are usually salty enough.
This is a great crock pot soup.  Just brown the meat first, then add the rest of the ingredients and cook up to ten hours (except barley, which would be added about 2 hours before serving).


February 14, 2011

Andrew's birthday meal

Sometimes it's all about volume!  A long standing tradition in our family allows the birthday person to choose the restaurant of their choice (within reason), and Andrew usually chooses a place where the food is plentiful!  This year we went to Claim Jumper (clear across town) for their specialty: meat!  Not much more to say!!

Andrew and the Ore Cart: beef ribs, pork ribs, and a half-chicken!

XL size chicken fried steak (mostly breading)

The super-large Ore Cart, accompanied by veggies and mashed potatoes.

Parmesan crusted shrimp in a sherry cream sauce.

Tri-tip dip with a spicy thai slaw (super yum)

February 7, 2011

The Norwegian in Me

The week before Thanksgiving I happened to be in Midtown on a Saturday afternoon. Walking past the Norwegian Seamen's Church, I noticed a sign advertising a Christmas bazaar. Lured by the promise of a cup of grog, I ventured inside. (Grog is a type of mulled wine, though their "wine" was actually made of Cranberry juice). The mature gentleman serving it explained that one does not drink "spirits" in a house of worship. 

I couldn't believe my eyes and ears. I was home! While I couldn't understand the language that most of the people were speaking, I saw a reflection of myself in the Nordic people. My best friend, L., a North Dakota born-and-bred Norwegian, makes lefse, a type of potato pancake, every year around Christmastime. The food tables at the bazaar contained lefse mix, pickled herring, chocolate advent calendars, and many other items to make a wonderful Christmas feast. I took away a tin of sardines and a couple of chocolate bars, including this one:

This candy bar, made by Nidar, is actually Finnish. I hope I don't get any flack for it.

godt nytt år

February 3, 2011

Squash Soup

The winter of 2008 was the winter of squash soup. I think I made it a dozen times that winter, using a recipe that called for half and half. It was delicious, but filled with needless fat and calories. Back then I only had a blender; now that I have a wicked awesome food processor, a creamy consistency without the cream is no problem. Last week, I made squash soup for the first time in a long time and I made it the healthy way

  • 1 small butternut squash, cubed
  • 1 small onion, chopped 
  • 3 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium potato, peeled and cubed
  • 32 oz chicken stock
  • 1 tsp butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • Melt butter in a large pot
  • Cook squash, onion, celery, carrots, and potatoes until lightly browned 
  • Cover vegetables with chicken stock and bring to boil
  • Reduce heat to low, cover pot, and simmer for 40 min or until veggies are tender
  • Transfer to wicked awesome food processor and process until creamy
  • Transfer back to pot and heat for a few min, until the temperature's right
Thank you to allrecipes.com for the recipe! 

Also, thank you to S. for being such a willing guinea pig! I paired the soup with a nice Zinfandel from Amador County, plus a selection of cheeses, bread, and veggie sticks. 

Note that I do not own a dining table. Such is life in NYC.