Rosemary’s Banana Bread

I saw a meme on Facebook joking about how everyone is baking banana bread during Quarantine.  But you know what? It’s no joking matter… banana bread is a DELICIOUS way to start the day and a VERY practical way to use up those three sad-looking bananas that have been sitting on the counter all week!

(I really thought I was going to eat a banana as a snack but it turns out I prefer oreos.)

This recipe comes from my mother-in-law, Rosemary, who gave us a cute little box filled with copies of her favorite recipes several years ago. This box is also the source of Aunt Eileen’s Curry and many other delicious breads, sides and desserts that haven’t made their way onto the blog yet.

Rosemary’s Banana Bread comes together in about 10 minutes.  I’ll stop typing this intro now before it takes more time to read the recipe than it does to make it!

Rosemary’s Banana Bread

You will need…
3 overripe Bananas
2 Eggs
2 cups (240g) All-Purpose Flour
¾ cup (149g) Sugar
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoons Baking Soda

Preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, mash the bananas with a fork. Add the eggs and beat. Add the dry ingredients and stir to combine until a thick batter forms. Transfer batter to a greased loaf pan and bake for 75 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of loaf comes out clean.

Cool the bread in the pan on a rack until cool enough to handle, then remove from pan and allow the bread to cool completely before storing in an airtight container. Enjoy banana bread for breakfast or in place of an oreo when you’re looking for a mid-afternoon snack.  😊

Crusty Baked Shells and Cauliflower

Matt first made Ina Garten’s Crusty Baked Shells and Cauliflower in February and we knew immediately that this would become one of our go-to dinners. Now, during Quarantine, we’ve made this at least six times and, guess what? It’s what’s for dinner TONIGHT!! Yum.

This dish is SO different from the average “baked pasta.” The panko-encrusted shells are flavored with lemon, garlic and Fontina cheese. The insides of the shells harbor pockets of creamy ricotta and the occasional salty zing of a caper. Tender cauliflower florets melt into the space between shells and make this meal feel lighter and healthier (or at least less unhealthy!). The entire dish is completed with a topping of panko, parsley and pecorino and baked in the oven until golden brown.

For the past 12 weeks Matt and I have been dependent on online grocery availability and we’ve had to get creative with some ingredient substitutions. Can’t find Fontina? Try Gruyère, Emmental or Gouda.  No shells available in the pasta aisle? Cavatappi and Pipe Rigate work well, too. And that time our online shopper delivered PURPLE cauliflower instead of the normal white stuff? No problem… the dish was just a little more colorful that time around!

We typically get one dinner plus three servings of lunch out of each recipe. This is great as a leftover and, according to Ina’s note in the original recipe, can also be made ahead by assembling the dish, refrigerating, and baking just before serving.

Ina Garten’s Crusty Baked Shells and Cauliflower

From Cooking for Jeffrey, adapted slightly

You will need…
Salt and Pepper
1 lb. Pasta Shells
Olive Oil
1 head Cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
3 tablespoons Sage, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons Capers, drained
3 cloves Garlic, minced
½ teaspoon Lemon Zest
¼ teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper
10 oz. Fontina Val d’Aosta Cheese, grated
1 cup Ricotta
½ cup Panko bread crumbs
6 tablespoons Pecorino Cheese, grated
2 tablespoons minced Parsley

Preheat oven to 400°F. Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted water until al dente.  Drain the pasta and transfer it to a very large mixing bowl.

Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large sauté pan, then add half the cauliflower in a single layer. Sauté for 5-6 minutes, tossing occasionally, until the cauliflower is tender and starting to brown. Place the cooked cauliflower in the bowl with the pasta before sautéing the remaining cauliflower and adding to the pasta.

Add the sage, capers, garlic, lemon zest, red pepper, 2 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper to the bowl with the pasta and cauliflower. Stir gently, then add the grated Fontina cheese and stir again.

Transfer half the pasta mixture to a large casserole dish. Drop spoonfuls of ricotta over top of the pasta, then cover with the remaining pasta mixture.

Combine the panko, parsley, grated Pecorino and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small bowl. Sprinkle topping evenly over the pasta. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the topping is browned and the edges of the pasta are beginning to get crusty. Serve immediately and enjoy!

OMG BLT Pizza

Iron Hill Brewery has been one of my favorite restaurants ever since Matt and I moved within walking distance to the micro-brewery’s Media location twelve years ago.  I have happy memories of sitting in Iron Hill’s outdoor dining area in June 2008 and sipping fresh beer (a wheat beer at that time, I’m sure) while watching hundreds of runners pass by on State Street in the Media 5 Mile race.

Back then I felt sorry for the runners (why run when you can sit outside drinking at Iron Hill??), but in recent years I’ve become one of those runners! Now I always make a point of looking at the happy spectators in Iron Hill’s outdoor dining area when I race by and Matt and I always have dinner at Iron Hill when the race is over.

One of my go-to entrees is the OMG BLT sandwich, a flavorful, drippy, wonderful combination of bacon, pepperoni, balsamic-dressed arugula, tomato, mozzarella and pesto mayo on a warm and crusty ciabatta.  After I became pregnant last summer I was no longer able to partake in the OMG BLT (though I did consider ordering it without pepperoni on more than one occasion!) and it was one of the dinners I was most looking forward to after the baby was born.

It’s even on Iron Hill’s temporary takeout menu during the COVID-19 shutdown. But we’re super cautious and haven’t ordered any takeout. Good thing we can make our own!

Matt, baby K and I have still not visited Iron Hill since her birth in early March, but that hasn’t stopped me from craving an OMG BLT.  I contemplated trying to make a copycat version of the sandwich at home, but we’ve only been doing online grocery shopping and good ciabatta is hard to come by.  (With my luck our Whole Foods shopper would helpfully substitute in a rock-hard gluten free, vegan, fair trade dinner roll!) Matt and I make our own pizza all the time so I happily agreed when Matt suggested that we turn my craving into a pizza.

I bet Kenzie wishes she could eat this.

OMG BLT Pizza

Our pizza version of Iron Hill Brewery’s OMG BLT sandwich.

You will need…
6-8 oz. bacon, cut into small pieces
2.5 oz. pepperoni, quartered if it’s the big 3-4 in. diameter slices from Whole Foods
2 Roma Tomatoes
8 oz. Mozzarella cheese
2-3 spoonfuls Basil Pesto
1-2 tablespoon Mayonnaise
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Balsamic Vinegar
3-4 handfuls Arugula
1 lb. Pizza Dough

Place a pizza stone in the oven and preheat to 550°F. Cook the bacon bits over medium heat until brown and crispy, then transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate. Thinly slice the tomatoes and place them on a paper towel to remove the excess liquid. Shred the mozzarella cheese.

Make the pesto mayo by combining the pesto and mayo in a small bowl.  If you want to get fancy and use a squeeze bottle, add a little olive oil to the pesto mayo until it is thin enough to funnel into a squeeze bottle. (If you’re using the squeeze bottle, make sure your pesto is very well blended otherwise chunks of nuts and garlic will jam up the nozzle!)

Whisk together 1 teaspoon each of olive oil and balsamic vinegar in a medium-sized bowl. Add the arugula and toss well to coat.

Stretch the pizza dough into a 14-16” disc (whatever size fits your stone). Remove the stone from the oven and place the dough on the hot stone. Working quickly, cover the dough with the mozzarella, then the bacon, pepperoni and tomato slices. Bake the pizza until the crust is starting to brown on the edges, approximately 8-12 minutes.

Remove the cooked pizza from the oven and transfer from the stone to a peel. (We do this outside the oven rather than trying to peel it off the stone IN the oven.)  Spoon or squeeze the pesto mayo over top of the pizza, then top with the dressed arugula.  Slice and serve!


Pumpkin Stew baked IN the Pumpkin!

A small pie pumpkin has been sitting in my kitchen awaiting its destiny for about a week. I purchased it at Giant with no plan or recipe in mind. I knew only that I wanted to cook or serve food IN the pumpkin. I pictured a stew of sorts, with sausage and white beans (two of my favorite foods), plus fresh sage and, of course, pumpkin. I scoured the internet in search of such a meal and came up empty. How has no one made this feast before??

Real recipe or not, I was determined to give my lonely little pumpkin a purpose. I found two separate recipes – one for a stew, another for how to bake a different dish in a pumpkin – and combined them into my own pumpkin creation. I sent a cell phone picture of the finished dish to my mom just before digging in and she texted back “You need to put this in your blog!!” so here ya go, Mom, this one’s for you. Continue reading

Rigatoni with Sausage, Fennel and Ricotta

SNOW DAY!!!! I am currently sitting in my cozy living room drinking a giant cup of tea while the winds of Winter Storm Stella (aka #blizzard2017) howl outside. Knowing that we would be home from work today, Matt and I decided in advance that we’d make a big dinner last night that could serve double-duty as an excellent lunch after shoveling today. We settled on a riff of Ina Garten’s Rigatoni with Sausage and Fennel, a warm, stick-to-your-ribs pasta dish with a creamy, rich sauce.

Our riff originates from the first time we made this: we didn’t have the heavy cream that Ina called for but we DID have ricotta cheese so we subbed that in. The ricotta melted into the sausage and pasta and tasted amazing. So good, in fact, that we never even considered going back to heavy cream for last night’s meal.

A note about the pasta for this dish… we made it ourselves!! Matt and I got a pasta machine last winter and we make fresh pasta all the time. Like, multiple times a week. Good thing I’m a runner and need my carbs!!! Homemade pasta tastes fresher and has a chewier, more complex texture than the boxed stuff. For our pasta we combine semolina flour, AP flour, eggs, salt and water and the Philips machine does the rest. It’s really crazy to watch it pump fresh pasta right out the front of the machine. I really should have taken a video but here are some photos. I never knew fresh pasta could be so easy to make!

Rigatoni with Sausage, Fennel and Ricotta
Adapted from Ina Garten’s Cooking for Jeffrey; serves 4 Continue reading

When the weather outside is frightful, make peppermint patties!

I woke up last Saturday morning and looked outside to find every tree branch, pine needle, and berry encased in a layer of wet, glistening ice. The 5K I had planned to run had already been postponed until Sunday, so Matt and I decided that we didn’t need to brave the slick roads and instead would spend the entire day at home baking holiday goodies.

I kicked off the bake-a-thon at 10AM by making blueberry-lemon scones for breakfast.  Matt and I then baked a double batch of sugar cookies before launching into the day’s big project: homemade peppermint patties. The goal was to make enough patties to share with our neighbors and friends, and 12 dozen chocolate-dipped treats later I think we succeeded!

Peppermint patties are surprisingly easy to make. Just combine peppermint extract, softened butter, corn syrup, and lots of confectioners sugar. Form this “dough” into balls and press the balls into discs on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Coat with melted chocolate and, voila! You now have homemade peppermint patties! If you’re feeling extra creative, add some green food coloring to the filling or sprinkle the freshly-coated patty with chocolate jimmies. (But a note of warning… don’t get so excited about your batch of green-filling-patties that you totally forget to put the peppermint extract in. I might have done that on my fourth and final batch. Sorry to any neighbor who bites into a green one and realizes that it just tastes like buttercream candy instead of peppermint!) 😁

1561-peppermint-patties

Homemade Peppermint Patties
(From Butter With a Side of Bread; makes about 3 dozen patties) Continue reading

Parsley, Arugula and Ricotta Pesto

1504-parsley-pesto-pasta

I love basil pesto, but last week when I needed to make a side dish to bring to a party I decided to try something different. I paged through my America’s Test Kitchen Pasta Revolution cookbook and found a recipe for a tasty-sounding pesto with parsley, arugula, and ricotta cheese. I’ve now made this recipe two times in a week and can officially declare it a winner!

Like it’s basil-based cousin, this parsley pesto comes together quickly. Just toast the pine nuts and garlic in a hot skillet, then blend with fresh arugula, parsley, grated Parm, salt and olive oil. Then the best part… stir several spoonfuls of ricotta cheese into the pesto until the sauce is creamy and smooth. Combine with a pound of cooked pasta and you’ll have a bright, fresh, flavorful side that you’ll be proud to share with friends and family.

This pesto tastes extra delicious if you eat it while watching the Eagles crush the Steelers. Go Birds!

This pesto tastes extra delicious if you eat it while watching the Eagles crush the Steelers. Go Birds!

Parsley, Arugula and Ricotta Pesto
(Serves 4-6; from Pasta Revolution)

You will need…
1/4 cup Pine Nuts, toasted
3 cloves Garlic, toasted
1 cup packed Parsley
1 cup packed Arugula
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan Cheese, plus more for garnish
Salt and Pepper
7 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/3 cup Whole Milk Ricotta
1 pound Pasta

Directions:
Combine pine nuts, garlic, parsley, arugula, Parmesan, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in a blender. Slowly pour in the olive oil as you blend the mixture for 30-60 seconds. Transfer the pesto to a large bowl and stir in the ricotta until well blended. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Before draining the pasta reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Mix several tablespoons of the reserved water into the pesto. Add the pasta and stir well until the pasta is evenly coated with pesto, adding more pasta water if desired. Top with freshly grated Parmesan and enjoy hot or cold.

1479-pesto-pasta