Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Banoffee Muffins

There is a English dessert called Banoffe Pie.  It is a mix of bananas and toffee.  I have an issue with the texture of bananas.  They are mushy.  They turn funny colors if you don't eat them right away.  And then they are even more mushy. OCD, anyone?  Why, no thank you.  I already have some.

Bananas in baked goods, however, taste great, are not mushy, do not turn funny colors and add some lovely moisture.  Therefore, the idea was to make a banoffee muffin.  There are recipes for Banoffee Cake and Cupcakes, but I wanted a less sweet version.  The muffin version is still sweet, but it does not have frosting.  I found a few sites, but they all were from the UK.  Therefore the ingredients were in grams and milliliters.  Sure I learned the metric system in school.  It was about 100 years ago and while the metric system hasn't changed in all that time, my memory of it has.  But the most important part is that my measuring devices are in cups and I don't have a scale.

I sent a frantic Viber message to my daughter who lives in England, but didn't get an immediate response, so I turned to the Internet. It is just as well, because she says she does the same thing.   There are easy conversion sites that I used.  Unfortunately the grams did not convert to an exact amount of cups, so I had to guesstimate.  I bake a lot, so I had a rough idea and I went bravely forward.  After all, if it didn't turn out I could toss it and never tell you and then you wouldn't know I was a doofus.  Not so brave after all.

The other obstacle was that our stores do not carry the Carnation Caramel that is called for in the recipe.  Not enough Brits here to justify it?  Maybe.  But there are plenty of Hispanics in the US, so Nestle Carnation makes a Dulce de Leche version of their sweetened condensed milk, so I was ready to experiment.


Banoffee Muffins

1 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil  (Their recipe called for 5 tablespoons, but that seemed like a lot and I frequently use less and see if it turns out.  It did.  You can use all 5 T if you want to try the original recipe.)
2 ripe bananas
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 can Nestle La Lechera  ( Dulce de Leche condensed milk)
1/2 cup chopped nuts, optional.  I used pecans


Pre-heat the oven to 375°.  (Sure, you can use 190° C, but if you live in the U.S., chances are your oven won't know what to do with that!)  Place baking cups in a 12 cup muffin tin.

Mix the flour, soda and baking powder in a medium bowl.  Set aside


Peel the bananas and place them in a large bowl.  Use a fork to smash them up.  Add the eggs, vanilla extract, oil and milk and a big dollop of the La Lechera, about 1/3 of the can.  Set aside the rest of the can.  Using the same fork, mix the whole thing together.

You will notice there is no added sugar to this recipe.  That is not a mistake.  The sweetened caramel sauce and the bananas make it plenty sweet.


Add the flour mixture to the banana mixture and stir until just moistened.  Lumps are OK. 


Now take the La Lechera and put spoonsful all over the batter.  You may have to use a spatula to gently turn the mixture to find another spot to add the drops of Le Lechera.  Use the fork to swirl just a bit through all the drops.  You want to leave big hunks of the caramel to discover all melty and warm inside the muffins.


Use a large ice cream scoop to fill the baking cups in the muffin tin.  A large spoon would work, too, but you are liable to make a drippy mess. Sprinkle the tops with the chopped nuts.


Bake for 20 minutes.  It is hard to use a toothpick on these muffins to test to see if they are done.  If you hit a pocket of caramel sauce it will be gooey.  Try to find a non-caramel spot.  Or just do 20 minutes.

Cool for a few minutes and then serve warm.  That way the caramel will ooze out and be so delicious.


It was hard to remove the whole muffin intact from the baking cups.  They tended to break apart at the point of the caramel pockets and stick to the paper.  I was forced to try TWO muffins in order to see if this was true for all the muffins.  It was and I used a fork to make sure I didn't leave any muffin behind.


These are also good the next day for breakfast, but pop them in the microwave for 10 seconds to warm up the caramel.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Cold Day In July


Do you remember the song by the Dixie Chicks called Cold Day in July?  Well, that is what we have had the last two mornings.

After the incredible heat and humidity we have been having,  it was pretty nice.


I had to have coffee to stay warm out on the screen porch.  It was glorious, but foggy.


We all enjoyed getting out in it.  There were two absolutely BRILLIANT days this week.  It was better than Spring or Fall, because it was in the middle of hot and muggy days.  Lee said it was better than living back in Laguna Niguel, where beautiful weather is the norm.


Can we get this every summer?

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Peach Melba Tart ( Without the Melba)

One of the joys of living in the country is trying to find all the ingredients for a particular recipe.  I went to two different stores looking for raspberries.  No luck.  So I am making a Peach Melba Tart without the Raspberries.  I don't know what the name would be now.  Creamy Peach Tart?  That works for me.

This recipe is adapted from the Food Network Magazine.  The biggest change is that I left out the raspberries, so this is a Peach UnMelba Tart.


Creamy Peach Tart

The Crust:

1/2 cup sliced almonds
3/4 cup flour
2 Tablespoons sugar
6 Tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
2 Tablespoons ice water 

The Glaze:

1 peach, diced
1/2 cup sugar
2 wide strips lemon zest
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

or just buy some peach jam.  This is the method I highly suggest for the glaze.

For the Filling and Topping:

1/2 cup ricotta Cheese
1 8 ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
3 firm peaches, thinly sliced
1/2 cup raspberries, should you be able to find them


Make the crust first.


Preheat the oven to 375°. Spray a 9 inch tart pan with removable bottom.  Set aside.  Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and bake for about 4 minutes, until slightly golden.  Transfer to a small bowl and cool completely.


Combine the flour, 1/3 cup of the toasted almonds and sugar in a food processor and pulse until finely ground. 


Add the butter and pulse until the mixture looks like coarse meal. 


Add 2 Tablespoons ice water and pulse until the dough comes together.  Dump the ball of dough on a piece of plastic wrap and form into a disk.  Wrap tightly and refrigerate until slightly firm, about 15 minutes.


Unwrap the dough and use the plastic wrap to press the disk into the tart pan.  Freeze until firm, about 15 minutes.


Place the tart pan on the baking sheet that used to have the almonds on it.  Line the crust with foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Then remove the foil and pie weights and cook until golden brown all over, about 15 to 20 more minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

This is where you are supposed to make a glaze by putting all the glaze ingredients


in a pan with a cup of water and simmer until reduced and thickened.  Remove the zest and cool.


Don't bother. You only need a little glaze and this makes a lot.  So learn from my experience and heat up some peach jam in a small saucepan with a bit of lemon peel and a teaspoon of lemon juice to use for the glaze and be done with it!


Make the filling while the crust is cooling.  I used my Kitchen Aid and put the ricotta, the softened cream cheese, the confectioner's sugar and the nutmeg in the bowl.  Beat for about 5 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides a few times.  When it is smooth and creamy, spread it on the cooled crust.  The picture in the magazine showed unpeeled peaches.  I couldn't do that.  Gotta peel them.  You can do it either way!


Peel the peaches and cut into thin slices.  The original recipe called for 2 peaches. 


I had large ones and they still looked skimpy, so I cut up one more.  Arrange in concentric circles. 


And start with three peaches so you aren't fiddling to fit in the others, like I did.

Brush with the glaze.  Reserve a bit to toss with the raspberries that I am sure YOU can find.  Place the raspberries and the remaining sliced almonds on the tart and chill until serving.


The tart was creamy and delicious and just sweet enough.  Our peaches from a local orchard are juicy and sweet so you don't need a lot of sugar in the crust or the creamy filling.  Just right!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Swapping Engines


Lee has been finishing the 1954 GMC truck that he has been rebuilding.  It is not finished, let alone sold, and now he has a 1974 Camaro.

Come to think of it, I haven't finished my quilt and yet I am working on a Christmas stocking.  It's all about getting tired with your current project and doing something else. 

On weekends when I was a child, we always had a list of chores to do.  Dad would sometimes approach and ask if we were tired and wanted a break.  YES!  Be careful of Iowans bearing gifts.  Then he would have you come help him with HIS list and it was ALWAYS harder than what you had been doing.  "Doing something different is a break," my father would say if we dared to complain.

So I guess Lee is taking a break from working on work on a car!


The Camaro has a six cylinder engine.  OK, but not a screaming monster.  Lee is putting in an eight cylinder engine to give it some vroom.  Then he has to decide if he needs to upgrade the transmission and the radiator.  Lee's favorite comment, "Nothing is ever easy."


So I will document his removal of the small and in with the big. 


And I will try to only tell you things I know to be true.  So if I leave something out of the post, there is a strong possibility that I forgot what Lee told me as I walked from the shop to the office where the computer lives.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Chicken Sliders

I have a few frozen yeast rolls left over from having company.  I bought some chicken tenders to make a BBQ pizza with a Boboli crust.  I don't need ALL of the chicken for the pizza, do I?

Of course not.

So I thought I would experiment with some chicken sliders using the yeast rolls for the "buns".  What do you think?  Yeah!  Me, too.

The main thing is to remember to start about 3 hours before you want to eat.

Chicken Sliders with PW's Buttered Rolls.

Chicken Sliders

Chicken tenders
frozen yeast dinner rolls

Then the fixings of your choice.

For the BBQ sliders I used:


Cheddar Cheese, mine was shredded
thinly sliced red onion
Romaine leaves, torn small to fit.  Or reach in a bag of salad, like I did.
Avocado, sliced thin
Tomato, sliced thin.  A Roma tomato is the perfect size.
BBQ sauce

For the Thai sliders I used


Thai Peanut Sauce

OK.  The only Thai thing is the sauce.  Work with me here.


Heat a cast iron pan for a few minutes, until a large pat of butter melts.  Remove from the heat to cool for a few minutes.  Roll the frozen bread rolls in the melted butter, cover them and let them rise for about 2 hours.  They will get big and soft and poufy.


Preheat the oven to 350°.  Melt some more butter and brush the tops of the rolls.  Sprinkle them with a bit of salt and some chopped herbs.  I used Italian Seasoning.  I think it might be fun to use sesame seeds next time.


Cook for about 15 minutes or until they start to brown.  Let them cool a few minutes and then remove them to a cooling rack.  When they are cool, slice them like a bun.


While the rolls/buns are cooking get out the chicken tenders and remove that ridiculous tendon.  I don't know why chickens have to make this so difficult.

I placed a wax paper on top of the tenders and pounded them so they would be a bit flatter.  Then cut them bigger than the buns.  They will shrink a bit.  Or just cook them right from the package and then cut them into bun sized bits.  They will cook in just a few minutes.  Just long enough to slice a tomato and cut up an avocado and an onion.  Keep an eye on the chicken chunks and turn them over when they are done on one side.


Place the veggies and the cheese, if you are using it, on a plate for each person to make the slider of choice.


I tried one of each, but I like the BBQ one the best.  Both were pretty good, though.

But the rolls?   They were perfect.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


This has been one heck of a hot and humid summer.

It has rained more days than not.  Thunderstorms are a constant.

Hot, hot, hot and humid makes for great growing conditions.  Even great weed production.  And I ought to know.  I just spoke with a man about helping me with the growth on the driveway.  Weed eating on a slope is no longer something I can do. 


But the weirdest and most gross, was the plant growing in the window sill in the basement.  It was also the easiest to fix.  We just had to remove the screen and give everything a good scrubbing.  ONE day we will have some concrete under the doors and windows to keep the splashing to a minimum, but for right now, I have a bucket of sudsy water and I am not afraid to use it.


So I shouldn't be surprised that I had mildew growing on the carpet in the screen porch.  Screens let in sun and fresh air and, oh, yes, rain.  Snow gets in there, too. but that has NOT been an issue lately.


I mixed some bleach and water to kill the mildew in the screen porch.  Usually the heat of summer kills it, but it has been so humid that we are growing a carpet of moss!  I wonder if the bleach will harm the carpet, but at this point, I will try anything.

It reminds me of the joke about the 90 year old man who went to the doctor for a physical.  He was marrying a 24 year old woman and the doctor expressed concern.

"Aren't you worried about the age difference?  She's so young and it IS your honeymoon.  Sometimes the excitement of the wedding night can cause heart issues."

The old man shrugged his shoulders and said, "If she dies, she dies."

And that is how I feel about the carpet.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Thumbprint Cookies

My cousin in Troutville is coming to visit.  She is bringing her kids.  I didn't think about it too much, because anyone with a bunch of kids has long since learned not to look at clutter or dust.  I didn't have to clean for visitors!  This morning at 6:30 I realized I would have a bunch of kids here and I didn't have any kid friendly food.  Want a tomato or some lettuce? 

I tried to think about what was in my pantry.  There are no nearby stores that open at 6:30AM, which is when I had this epiphany. (I might have gotten Rice Krispies for Rice Krispie Treats. Or store bought cookies if I had thought ahead.)   I had made some peach jam this summer, so I decided on Thumbprint Cookies.  It is basically a soft sugar cookie with an indentation in the top filled with jam.  Homemade cookies filled with homemade jam.  The kids wouldn't appreciate the difference, but Karlyn would!  She makes all their bread, so she knows.

Thumbprint Cookies

1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened
2/3 cup sugar, plus extra for rolling
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup (or thereabouts)  jam of your choice.  I used peach.

Preheat the oven to 350°.


Get out your Kitchen Aid mixer and put the softened butter in and let it start beating the butter.  If it isn't soft enough, you can put it in the microwave for about 10 seconds.  But no longer.  You don't want MELTED butter.  While it is beating get out the rest of the ingredients.  It will take about 5 minutes.  Stop and scrape the butter down a few times.


After you get out the sugar, stop the mixer, scrape it down and add the sugar to the butter.  Get it back to mixing and measure out the dry ingredients.  Put the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl, mix well with a fork and set it aside.


When the butter is nicely whipped add the egg and the vanilla.  Don't set the egg on the counter to take a picture and then turn away.  You will be sorry.  Don't ask me how I know this. 


Start the washer, add the kitchen rug,  and then put the new egg you just got out of the fridge immediately into the butter mixture with the vanilla.  Mix just until incorporated.

Add the flour, salt and baking powder in two batches to the mixer.  Just mix until the flour is mixed in.  These should be soft cookies and you don't want to over mix them or they will get tough.

It is HOT this summer, so I popped the mixing bowl into the freezer to firm up, while I cleaned up a bit and got out the cookie sheets and the Silpats.  You may use parchment paper on the cookie sheets if you don't have the Silpats.  Don't leave it in the freezer more than a few minutes.


Place approximately 1/3 cup of sugar in a medium bowl.  Use a small cookie scoop or a Tablespoon to scoop out a ball of dough.  Place three or 4 of them in the bowl of sugar and gently turn them with a spoon to coat all sides with the sugar.


Place the sugared balls on a cookie sheet about 2 inches apart.  They will spread out a bit when baking.  Wash your hands.  I know you already did, but do it again.  Dry them.  Dip your newly cleaned thumb in the sugar and then in middle of a cookie and press gently.  The sugar will keep the cookie from sticking to your finger.  You may need to do this between each cookie.  Don't smash the cookie.  You need to leave a bit of cookie on the bottom of the indentation.   I over pressed on a few and got a few wonky cookies.  You just want enough room to place a small amount of jam.  Use a tiny spoon or a 1/2 teaspoon measuring spoon to place a bit of jam in each indentation.


Bake for 12 to 15 minutes.  Mine took 14 minutes.  The edges will just start to turn brown.  Let the cookies cool for a few minutes and then move them to a cooling rack to finish cooling.


Make sure you put some aside for Lee, because children don't care about saving room for lunch and they want to eat cookies if they see them.  Wait.  That's ME.  I want to eat cookies if I see them.  So put some where you can't see them.