Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Semi-Homemade (without Sandra Lee, thank goodness)...

I’m a little ashamed of this post...not to mention my blogging hiatus. Between memo, spring break, and upcoming exams, I’ve been short on time and the extent of my cooking or baking has been forced to become rather unimpressive. By unimpressive, I mean semi-homemade. Pretty sure I can blame Sandra Lee’s Food Network show for my ill-will towards semi-homemade cooking. I cannot stand Sandy Lee for multiple reasons. One, half the crap she makes looks and sounds disgusting (White Chocolate Polenta? Now that's just wrong!) Two, everything about her is rather obnoxious (Those tablescapes? Gag me. And her constant use of the word “pop”: I’m just gonna pop this crushed up bag of Ramen noodles and these canned mandarin oranges into this bowl of pre-packaged iceberg lettuce, and Look! It’s Chinese Chicken Salad. Gross. This serves to further illustrate my first point). But I digress…

Sandra Lee - putting the 'ho' in 'Semi-Homemade'

So, in light of my semi-homemade ways these past few weeks, I thought I’d share with you a few of the “quick-fix” recipes that I’ve made lately.  These are pretty much the easiest to make. No really—so easy (as in like two ingredients). And SO much more appetizing than anything you’d see on Sandra’s FN show.

Spaghetti & Meatballs
A bag of frozen meatballs (my favorite variety comes from Costco, but Trader Joe’s has some good ones, too)
1 jar of quality marinara sauce (my favorite is TJ’s Arrabiata sauce)
Noodles (I think y'all have this part down)

Put the frozen meatballs on a plate and defrost them for a bit in the microwave (makes this “recipe” even faster)…maybe 3 minutes of 50% power. Pour the jar of sauce into a medium saucepan and heat on the stove. Put the meatballs in the sauce. Simmer until meatballs are heated through. I like to make a bunch of meatballs at a time. You can use leftovers to make meatball subs on toasted baguette with melted provolone. Seriously so easy. And so good.

BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches
 Frozen (or fresh, doesn’t matter) chicken breasts or tenderloins
1 jar of BBQ sauce (again, I love TJ’s Kansas City BBQ sauce…it’s fabulous & doesn’t have any corn syrup or other gross ingredients)
Prepackaged coleslaw
Hamburger buns

I usually do this in a slow cooker (which I doubt most of my fellow law students own), but it can also be done in an oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place the chicken in a small baking dish and pour the BBQ sauce over the top. I like to add a few dashes of Tabasco for extra kick. Cover with foil and cook until the chicken is no longer pink and the juices run clear. Shred with two forks. Serve shredded chicken on toasted hamburger buns with a scoop of coleslaw. And if you’re really feeling adventurous, open a can of baked beans and serve them alongside the sandwiches.

Roasted Garlic and Balsamic Dipping Oil
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Peel away the outer skin layers of a garlic bulb, leaving the skins of the individual cloves intact. Using a knife, cut off 1/4 to a 1/2 inch of the top of cloves, exposing the individual cloves of garlic. Place the bulb on a sheet of foil and a few tablespoons of olive oil on top. Add a couple dashes of salt. Wrap the bulb in the foil and place on a small baking dish. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes or so. Let cool. Squeeze out the roasted garlic cloves from their skins and put in a bowl. Add some salt and mash them with a fork. Drizzle some balsamic vinegar and a generous dose of olive oil over the roasted garlic and add some chili flakes, dried herbs (basil, rosemary, or oregano would be good) and more salt, if desired. Serve with crusty bread.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Banana Bread & Baked Good Giveaway!

The smell of banana bread baking in the oven is one of life's simple pleasures. I buy bananas specifically for them to turn brown and be baked into bread...or pancakes...or muffins. Otherwise, they are definitely not my go-to fruit of choice (more of an apple girl--that's what Washington's known for, after all). I've included some photos to help you follow the recipe. Be warned, however. The third-to-last picture is a bit graphic and not for the faint of heart. I cut myself on a metal edge of a defective disposable loaf pan. But don't worry. The other two pans used to make the bread were in the oven when the kitchen mishap occurred.

I have been coming up with a lot of ideas for this blog. I'd love to somehow include my friends and readers into my entries. I've found much of my inspiration in a lovely book I received for Christmas--Food, Fashion, Friends. The author, Fleur Wood (an Australian fashion designer), throws these lavish, beautiful parties for her friends.  The book highlights her fresh styling and food ideas through gorgeous and artistic photography. I'd love to have a weekly (or as often as I can actually make it happen) "Food with Friends" post.  If you're interested in being featured, let me know and we can collaborate & cook something special together. 

I would also like to hear what kinds of recipes you're interested in seeing here.  For example, quick-fix ideas for us busy law students?  More desserts?  Healthier options?  To incentivize you to give me suggestions and ideas, I will take the names of all those who contribute by Friday at 5 pm and randomly choose one winner.  Your award?  A certificate good for one batch of cookies or a batch of brownies. So, comment away!

The Ultimate Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

 How it most always begins in the baking world: butter and sugar.

 Mix the two until creamy and fluffy.

 Add the eggs and vanilla.

 Perfect for banana bread. The riper, the better ( an extent).

 See? With the Ziploc trick, there's no mess and one less bowl to clean!


 Dry, meet Wet.

 Chocolate makes everything better: broken hearts, bad days, headaches, PMS...even banana bread.

 Ready for the oven.


 Ready to be eaten.

Soooo good. Especially with butter. NOM NOM!

1/2 cup salted butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup mashed super-ripe banana (about 2 bananas)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
dash nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped nuts (omit if you don't like nuts)
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 1 large loaf pan, or 2 smaller loaf pans.

2.  In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars with an electric mixture until fluffy.

3.  To the butter-sugar mixture, add eggs and vanilla, sour cream and mashed banana. Mix until ingredients are fully incorporated. Tip: An easy and less-messy way of mashing your bananas is to place them (peeled of course) into a plastic Ziploc bag. Seal the bag and then mash away with your hands until you have the consistency of baby food. Then, snip off one of the bag’s corners and squeeze the mashed banana into your mixing bowl. Easy as that!

4.  In a smaller bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.  Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mixing with a wooden spoon until just combined.  Fold in nuts (if desired) and chocolate chips. Note: Do not overmix. You’ll overwork the glutens in the flour and end up with a less delicate crumb and a tougher, chewier final product (we don’t want that here).

5.  Pour batter into prepared loaf pan(s). Bake at 350 degrees F for 40 minutes to an hour (it will depend on your oven and whether you’re making one or two loaves). The bread is done when a toothpick inserted to the center of the loaf comes out clean. 

6.  Let cool for 10-15 minutes before trying to remove the bread from the pans. Serve with butter.