Basic Banana Bread

By Candace Derickx

Let’s face it, banana bread has been around forever, so the variations are endless. You can make it with buttermilk, sour cream, apple sauce, flax seed, whole wheat flour, wheat germ, cinnamon and chocolate chips. You can even bake it in a skillet. It’s the Bubba Gump Shrimp of the dessert bread world.  So now that we have that out of the way, here is your basic – like you probably have everything in the house right now — recipe.

basica banana bread

Basic Banana Bread

5 cups all-purpose flour

4 teaspooons baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

3  cups very ripe mashed bananas (around 6)

1/2 cup 2% milk

4 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup butter at room temperature (2 sticks)

2 cups granulated sugar

4 large eggs

basic banana bread

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease two 9″x5″ metal loaf pans or line with parchment paper.  In a large bowl combine flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda with a whisk. In a medium bowl stir together mashed bananas, milk and vanilla.

In a electric stand mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy at medium speed. Beat in eggs, one at a time. With mixer turned to low, alternately add flour mixture and banana mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat until just blended.

Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake until toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean, between 60 and 70 minutes. Cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes before removing from pan. Slice and serve.

Pleasantville note: This bread freezes beautifully, so slice and wrap in individual servings. Great for lunches.

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Candy Cane Ice Cream with Dark Chocolate

 

By Candace Derickx

So there’s this store here in Canada that releases their “special” holiday ice cream every year and it causes mass hysteria. Okay, maybe I exaggerate, but it certainly gets a lot of people excited. Except me. See, I think that it tastes like mouthwash, and has a terrible aftertaste. Being the self-righteous cook that I am, I was pretty sure I could do better. And, *brushes shoulder*, I’m fairly confident I succeeded.

Candy Cane Ice Cream with Dark Chocolate

Box of Candy Canes 16 count (red & white only, no green)
Slab of Callebaut Dark Chocolate
2 cups whipping cream
1 cup whole milk
2 extra-large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon peppermint extract

Have your elves take wrappers off candy canes. Make sure they don’t sneak any. Place candy canes in Ziploc bag and get the elves to whack it until candy canes are crushed. Meanwhile chop Callebaut chocolate into chunks, enough to fill 1/2 cup.

Break eggs into large bowl and whisk until light and fluffy. Slowly add sugar and whisk until sugar is dissolved. Whisk in whipping cream, milk, vanilla extract and peppermint extract. Pour mixture into ice cream maker and let churn for 20 to 25 minutes. Half way through churning add chocolate chunks and 1/4 cup crushed candy canes. Pour into a large freezer proof container, cover and let freeze two to four hours. Sprinkle another 1/4 to 1/2 cup crushed candy cane on top of ice cream and let freeze for another 2 hours.

Serve to happy elves.

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Slow Cooker Beef and Tomato Stew

 

If I keep feeding my husband these amazing meals out of my laundry room, he may never finish my kitchen. Must stop.

This recipe however, was the bomb. Perfect for a cold winter day.

Slow Cooker Beef and Tomato Stew

2 lbs stewing beef
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 medium carrots, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
3 celery stalks, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1 can San Marzano crushed tomatoes
1 cup low-sodium beef broth
4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
Kosher salt and ground pepper

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, celery and carrots and cook, stirring often, until vegetables are soft. Transfer to slow cooker and add beef, tomatoes, broth, garlic, salt and pepper.

Cover and cook on low 6-7 hours, or high 4-5 hours. Spoon over Pappardelle or Fettucine. Sprinkle pinch of kosher salt and chopped fresh parsley on top before serving.

Pleasantville Note – I can not emphasize enough the use of San Marzano tomatoes. They simply burst with flavour and all others seem bland in comparison. Also, we typically buy whole tenderloins and then cut steaks and roasts from it. We always have enough leftover for delicious stews! You can refrigerate this in an airtight container for up to 3 days and freeze for up to 3 months.

*adapted from an Everyday Food recipe.

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Chicken Tortilla Soup

What to serve for dinner when you’re renovating your kitchen? That is the magic question around here these days. So, for the next month, I’m going to try and get by with a slow-cooker, a toaster, a microwave and a hot plate.

Last night, I made this and I have to admit it was pretty darn good. And so, so easy.

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup

1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
3 cups of chicken stock
1 1/2 cups frozen corn
1 4 oz can green chiles
1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed an drained
1 rotisserie chicken, shredded OR two chicken breasts cooked and cut into bite size pieces

Toppings (optional)

Fresh cilantro
Chopped green onions
Sour cream
Shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Crushed tortilla chips
Slice avocado

Place all ingredients in slow cooker and stir well to combine. Cook on low 6-7 hours and high 3-4 hours. Serve with toppings of your choice. Enjoy.

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Bean Burritos

We’ve been making these Bean Burritos from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food for years now. They are so easy to make and because they are frozen in single servings, they are great for a late night snack for someone or for me when I want something quick for lunch. These are also perfect for meatless meals.

Bean Burritos

3/4 cup rice (brown or white)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 jalapeno chile, chopped (ribs and seeds removed, for less heat)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Coarse salt and ground pepper
3 tablespoons tomato paste
3 cans (15 ounces each) pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 bag frozen corn kernels (10 ounces)
6 scallions, thinly sliced
8 burrito-size flour tortillas, 10 inches each
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Salsa and sour cream, optional

Cook rice according to package instructions; set aside.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium. Add onions, garlic, jalapeno, and cumin; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Add tomato paste, and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add beans and 1 1/2 cups water; bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 10 to 12 minutes. Add corn; cook to heat through, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in scallions.

Heat tortillas according to package instructions; fill with rice, bean mixture, and cheese.

Mound 1/4 cup rice, 3/4 cup bean mixture, and 1/4 cup cheese on one side of tortilla. (I like to go more rice, less beans but follow your heart) Fold sides, and hold them in. Starting from filled end, holding sides in as you work, tightly roll into a bundle. Place on a baking sheet, seam side down, and prepare remaining burritos.

Serve immediately, with salsa and sour cream, if using, or wrap per freezing instructions.

Freezing Instructions:
Wrap individually in plastic and freeze up to 3 months.

To reheat from frozen:
Remove frozen burritos from plastic wrap. Place on a microwave-safe plate; microwave on high for 3 minutes. Transfer to baking sheet; bake at 450 degrees until crispy, about 10 minutes.

If only using a microwave, remove from plastic wrap, and place on a microwave-safe plate, covered with a microwave safe bowl. Defrost at high power for 3 to 4 minutes; uncover, and microwave on high 3 to 4 minutes longer.

If only using oven, remove burritos from plastic wrap; rewrap individually in aluminum foil. Place on a baking sheet; bake at 450 degrees for 40 minutes. Remove foil, and bake to crisp, 5 to 10 minutes. (To reheat defrosted burritos, remove any wrapping and bake for 10 minutes).

Pleasantville Note: I used mixed beans for this recipe and cut back slightly on the beans, using only two 19 oz cans. I also double the rice. Finally, I get my husband to make up his own tortillas because they are way better than store bought.

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Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins

I love baking all the treats for my family’s lunches. The best way to ensure that I’m not standing at the oven daily though is to bake in large quantities and freeze in portions for quick lunch-packing in the morning. This recipe makes 24 muffins and one loaf. I love nuts in zucchini bread but most schools have a no nut policy. If you don’t intend to send these to school, cut back on the chocolate chips by half and add in 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts.

Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins

6 eggs
4 cups sugar
2 cups oil
5 cups zucchini, shredded
6 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon vanilla
12 ounces chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Beat together eggs, sugar and oil. Add zucchini and remaining ingredients, mixing well. Divide amongst two muffin tins and one loaf pan. Cook muffins for 20 to 25 minutes until lightly browned and toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove muffins and let cool. Place loaf pan in oven for 45 to 55 minutes of until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Wrap muffins individually and freeze. Freeze loaf whole for when you have company or slice and wrap individually. Great for school lunches or fast breakfasts served with a smoothie.

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How to Freeze Fresh Herbs

by Shanna DaSilva

Hi there folks, I am a busy momma of two beautiful children and love to blog about my adventures in parenting over at In Love With the Small Things. I am always looking for ways to serve our children healthy meals on a family-friendly budget. This isn’t always an easy task as our daily lives are quite busy, and often times it is easier to buy the pre-packaged alternative.

This summer, the hubby and I made a point of planting a family garden where everyone took pride in sowing the seeds, harvesting the vegetables/herbs, and then preparing them to eat. I absolutely loved the fact that I knew where our produce was coming from.

We surprised ourselves with the amount of goodies our little garden produced, so much so that we found it hard at times to use all of our vegetables and herbs before they would spoil. I love cooking with fresh herbs – the flavour they add to soups, stews and stir-fry’s are unbelievable. With the winter months approaching, I was getting a little sad thinking about not having fresh herbs. After admiring the abundance of parsley in our garden, I knew I had to do something.

Well, if you are like me and feel sad when you throw away perfectly good food, look no further. I am excited to share with you a way to preserve any of the excess herbs you have purchased at the store – you know, the ones you bought because you only needed a few pinches. All you have to do is freeze those fabulous herbs, open the freezer, grab a few cubes and add them to your soups, stews or pasta sauce. What better way to enjoy your fresh herbs all year long.You will be on your way to a wonderful tasting dinner without the guilt. Enjoy!

Freezing Fresh Parsley

First pinch off parsley leaves and discard stems.

Wash parsley leaves well and dry in a salad spinner.

Add a few hand-fulls of washed parsley leaves into food processor (don’t over-pack)

Pulse the parsley until desired size.

Fill ice cube trays with parsley.

Top-up trays with water.

Freeze.

Place frozen parsley cubes into Zip-lock bags.

Place in freezer. Remember to label your bags with date. Frozen herbs usually stay in good condition for 4-5 months

When ready to use, remove from Zip lock and add while cooking. Note: it is not suggested to use previously frozen herbs as garnish

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Slow Roasted Plum Tomatoes

Just writing the title above started my mouth watering. To me, there is nothing better than a slow roasted tomato. They are like candy on a tray. Now that tomatoes are in abundance, the time is here to slow roast them and freeze them for later use in sauces, bruschettas, frittatas, on top of steaks or on in grilled paninis. Nothing can match the flavour of a perfectly roasted plum tomato.

Book aside a day on the weekend to make these. They don’t require lots of fussing, just time.

Slow Roasted Plum Tomatoes

Half a bushel of ripe plum tomatoes
1 1/2 cups olive oil
Kosher Salt
Granulated Sugar
Head of Garlic, sliced into thin slivers
Balsamic Vinegar

Make sure racks are positioned in top third and bottom third of oven and preheat to 350F. Prepare two 12×17 rimmed baking sheets, lining with parchment paper and putting 3 tbsps olive oil in the centre of each pan. Wash and dry tomatoes and cut in half through stem. Roll each half in olive oil on tray and continue until each tray is full. Sprinkle each tomato with kosher salt, followed by a sprinkling of sugar. Place a piece or two of sliced garlic on each tomato. Drizzle balsamic vinegar over tops of tomatoes (roughly a tablespoon per tray). Finally pour half a cup of olive oil over and around all the tomatoes on one tray and repeat with other half cup on second tray.

Place trays in oven on two racks and let roast for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, switching trays half way through. Don’t worry about overcooking them, worry about undercooking them! Tomatoes should be fully collapsed and slightly brown when done.

When tomatoes have cooled, store enough in an air tight container to use that week, and put in your refrigerator. Flat pack the rest in a vacuum packed bag and freeze for use throughout the fall and winter. Good for up to six months in the freezer as long as you make sure frost doesn’t get to them.

If you’re anything like my family, you’ll probably want to eat at least half a tray straight out of the oven! Enjoy.

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Marinara & Meatballs

Spaghetti and meatballs is practically a weekly event around here. Everybody in my family loves it, it requires no sides, and we always have leftovers for lunch the next day. I’m not crazy though. I don’t actually make spaghetti and meatballs every week. I only do that once every 3 months.

 

My husband and I usually take a morning on a weekend and make a huge batch of this for the freezer. The recipe below is from Rocco Dispirito’s mother, Nicolina, and is meant to be one meal. It’s the best recipe I’ve ever found and freezes beautifully for up to three months. I usually triple the sauce and quadruple the meatballs, so make sure you have a LARGE stockpot on hand if you decide to do this. One trip to Costco covers the meatballs, and then some. All leftover meat gets frozen in one pound increments for recipes like this Lasagna or this Super Skillet Pasta. Over the years I’ve made minor modifications and they can be found in brackets.

Mama’s Marinara

3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 cup yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped
3 tbsps extra-virgin olive oil
2 28–ounce cans tomato puree (I puree whole tomatoes in my blender, San Marzano are the best)
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup chicken broth
2 1/2 cups water
1 tsp sugar
Salt
Crushed red pepper

In a 4-quart Dutch oven (large stock pot if multiplying recipe), cook the onion and garlic in hot oil over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes or until tender but not brown, stirring frequently. Stir in the tomato puree, crushed tomatoes and the tomato paste. Stir in the water, broth, sugar, and crushed red pepper. (Hold back a cup and a half of water if multiplying by three or it’s too thin). Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Cover; simmer 1 hour. Season to taste with salt and, if desired, additional crushed red pepper. Sauce should be thin,but not watery, and very smooth. Makes about 9 cups. (You can freeze marinara on it’s own without meatballs for use with pastas or with a Chicken or Veal Parmigiana recipe).

 

Mama’s Meatballs

1/3 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup coarsely chopped onion
1 clove garlic, peeled
1/4 cup torn flat-leaf parsley
1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound ground veal
1/3 cup plain dry bread crumbs (I use a combination of Panko and Italian bread crumbs, and I find you need a little more than called for, for it to stick properly)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

In a food processor, combine chicken stock, onion, and garlic. Process until pureed. In a large bowl, combine onion mixture, ground beef, ground pork, ground veal, eggs, bread crumbs, parsley, 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, 1 teaspoon salt, and crushed pepper. Using 1/4 cup mixture per meatball, form 12 meatballs. (Pleasantville note: 1/4 cup is WAY too big in my opinion. Use your hands and make them big, but not THAT big. About 2″ round is good). In a large skillet, cook meatballs (working in batches, if necessary in hot oil over medium heat 10 minutes, until browned, turning occasionally. Drop meatballs into hot marinara sauce, one at a time. Stir gently. Cover, simmer for 1 hour. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. Serve meatballs and sauce over hot pasta. Sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Makes 6 servings. (I freeze different portions of this. I freeze a large one for company, most for meals for 4, a couple of meals for 2 and a couple of smaller one with less sauce, more meatballs for Meatballs Subs.)

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