Pumpkin spice and everything nice

While I was at Target the other day and strolled through the Halloween section in search of a pumpkin cookie cutter. They only had packages of multiple cutters that were underwhelming.  There was a package mix of pumpkin spice cookie mix that looked interesting, though.

It’s been an extremely busy week at work and I thought making some cookies for my coworkers would be a nice gesture to celebrate it being Friday. Since, I was too exhausted(re: busy week) to make cookies from scratch I pulled out the pumpkin spice package and whipped them up. Brian and I could have probably eaten the entire batch of dough. It was so good and probably extra good because it tasted like fall and last night it was cool and rainy. But since I was making them for my coworkers and the dough had raw egg in it, I would never do that.

Taking in packaged cookies would be almost sinful, so I made a homemade glaze to put on them. My first choice was cream cheese frosting, but I didn’t have any cream cheese and I wasn’t going out in the rain for it. So vanilla glaze it was.

Vanilla glaze ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons milk
  • lemon zest

Stir all together. This will make a runnier glaze. Adjust milk amounts to adjust thickness of glaze. I zested about 1/4 of a lemon to add a freshness to it.

The cookies turned out pretty well.

Roasted banana walnut bread

I’m not a big fan of heating up the oven to cook just one thing. So after making Brian cheesy chili mac with a corn bread crust for dinner, I decided to make a loaf of banana bread. Overripe bananas and a hot oven seemed like the perfect combination. Cheesy chili mac…mmmm…

So, I took to the world wide web for a banana bread recipe. I decided upon adapting the recipe for Flour’s Famous Banana Bread from Flour Bakery in Boston. I really wasn’t going to change much. Just roast the bananas and use some wheat flour, but then I made it even more healthy by omitting the oil. No, it wasn’t on purpose. I’ll explain as I go.

Ingredients:

  • 1 2/3 cups wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup oil(yes, you need to add it in)
  • 4 medium bananas, roasted
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cups walnuts, toasted and chopped

Since the oven’s already hot, why not roast the bananas for a more intense flavor? Heat oven to 400F. Slice bananas into 1 inch slices on a lightly greased sheet. Roast for about 30 minutes.

Let cool for a few minutes, scoop into bowl and mash with a fork. Set aside.

Lower oven to 350F for bread.

Combining the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk together sugar and 2 eggs for about 10 minutes until light and fluffy. Drizzle in oil. This is exactly the point where I forgot to add in the oil. I had been whisking and whisking and my arm was getting really tired. Oh, and I was getting really hot and had to take off my sweater. Don’t worry, I had a shirt on under it. I wasn’t whisking topless. Anyhow, I was irritated that I was hot, my arm was sore and I didn’t feel like my eggs were becoming light and fluffy. They had definitely made progress, but I would NOT call them fluffy. Well, this distracted me from adding in the oil. I just jumped straight to stirring in the mashed banana, sour cream and vanilla.

See, I’m back to being good at following directions. I added them in and stirred:

Then mix in dry ingredients with wet. Fold in toasted walnuts. If you’re not sure how to toast nuts, you can either do it in the oven or on the stove top. Just google the instructions. It’s super easy and adds great flavor, definitely worth the little bit of effort.

Once combined, pour into a greased loaf pan.

Hopefully, at this point you don’t shut the oven door and say to yourself, “That’s really weird that this recipe didn’t call for any oil.” Then say out loud to your boyfriend, who happens to be very excited at the prospect of warm banana bread, “Oh crap! I think I just ruined this loaf of bread. I completely forgot to add in the oil.” But I decided what’s done is done and lowered the baking time and prayed for something edible.

Bake for 35 minutes if you didn’t add oil. Or 45-50 minutes if you did add the oil. I’m not sure about the baking times for leaving out other ingredients. It came out looking a little dry.

Since I’m being very brave today(see previous post  about reaching hand blindly into tomato plant to feel for slugs), I cut off a small slice and gave it a try. Still surprisingly delicious. I would love to toast a piece of it and smear a little peanut butter on it, but I’ve just finished some left over curried cauliflower and lentils for dinner and don’t have the room. Maybe for breakfast.

My conclusion: This bread must really be amazing if you can leave out the oil and still get a good slice of banana bread. Roasting the bananas gives it a nice deep, carmely flavor.  A great idea on my part, but I might just be trying to convince myself that I should be allowed in the kitchen after forgetting oil in a bread recipe!

Slug bait

After getting a late start on my garden, the tomatoes are finally ripening. I’ve been watching the weather everyday to make sure we aren’t going to get a frost at night. Fortunately the temperatures have stayed in the 50s overnight.

After 3 straight days of rain, I went out to look at my plants at about 10pm last night. I was shocked and repulsed to discover that they were covered in SLUGS! Oozy goozy slimy slugs. At first I was devastated that my plants and crop were going to be ruined before I got to harvest much, then I decided to read up on slug infestations.

The wet and cloudy days were to blame for the slugs. Unfortunately, it’s supposed to continue to rain for the next few days. Being that it was late at night, I couldn’t run to my local Home Depot, so I turned to the internet for a slug fix.

It turns out that slugs are attracted to yeasty things. It’s common to use beer in slug traps. Or you can simply mix flour, water and a few pinches of yeast in a bowl until you have a loose batter. Set the bowl next to your plants at night and the slugs will commit slug suicide overnight. I mixed 1 cup of flour, 2-3 pinches yeast and 1 1/4 cups water.

After sitting out all night and getting a little rain in the bowl, this is how the slug brew looked. I’m guessing there were some drowned slugs in it. There weren’t any on my plants and I even stuck my hand clear into the plants, with much fear in my heart, to see if I could feel any of the slimy suckers hiding. I didn’t.  Hopefully my tomatoes can be saved. I placed the bowl in the base of my eggplant plant. That little eggplant has been the same size for the past 6 weeks, I’ve given up on it. The pot pretty much serves as a support for another tomato pot that doesn’t like to stay standing up.

So if you find yourself having a slug problem, you have an easy fix without having to run to the store.

Going green

Yesterday at the Iowa football game, fans were encouraged to wear green in support of Brett Greenwood. Greenwood graduated from Iowa last year and suffered a heart attack on Sept 9 during a work out. He has since been in a medically induced coma.(photo from the AP)

Since I wasn’t at the game, I showed my support at home by only consuming green foods during the game.

I made kale chips:

To make kale chips, preheat oven to 350. Throughly wash and pat dry one bunch kale. Tear kale into bite-sized pieces and place in bowl. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Toss so all kale pieces are evenly coated with oil. Place on baking sheets and bake 10-15 minutes or until edges are starting to brown. I placed cooling racks on the baking sheets and placed the kale pieces on top of the cooling rack so the air could circulate under the kale while cooking. I feel like this gives a more perfectly cooked chip.

and a green smoothie with kale, spinach and super greens:

Peanut butter hot chocolate

I saw a similar version on (Never)home maker the other day and couldn’t wait to make it for Brian…and maybe a little for myself. This warm treat is going to make the impending Chicago winter much more bearable.

I put in a packet of sugar-free hot chocolate, spoonful of peanut butter and a drizzle of honey in the bottom of a coffee mug. Add hot water or milk(we were out of milk) and stir until peanut butter dissolves.

So delicious. I used sugar-free hot chocolate mix because I am watching my carbs, but I plan on making the real deal with milk and cocoa powder as a treat soon after a nice long run.

Chicken pizziola remake

A long, long time ago….ok, so when I was in high school, I worked at this place called Subway. A little sandwich shop. Maybe you’ve heard of it. Well, one of the promotional subs that did quite well was called the chicken pizziola. I don’t know why it popped into my head the other day, but I decided that Brian would probably like it, so I tried to recreate it for him.

Ingredients:

  • one 4-6 ounce chicken breast, cooked
  • 2 tablespoons marinara sauce
  • 4 small slices pepperoni
  • 2 tablespoons mozzarella cheese
  • 1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese
  • bun
  • butter
  • garlic bread sprinkle

Preheat your broiler.

Place cooked chicken breast on a baking sheet lightly covered with non-stick spray. Top with marinara.

Then layer pepperoni on top of marinara.

Top with mozzarella and parmesan cheese.

Broil for 7 minutes.

While chicken is broiling, butter the insides of each half of the bun. Sprinkle with garlic bread sprinkle. Place buttered side down in a hot skillet to toast.

Place chicken on bun and eat!

Marinated chicken breasts

We eat a lot of chicken. Mostly chicken breasts and tenderloins. And some times, chicken can get boring. So, I decided for kicks to google “best chicken marinade.” The results came back with this 5-star rated recipe. I decided it was worth a try, slightly changed.

Marinated Chicken Breasts

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2-3 tablespoons of dried herbs(oregano, thyme, crumbled bay leaf)
  • 2 tablespoons mustard
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh chicken breast or tenderloin

Directions:

Put all of the ingredients in a large Ziploc bag and mix together well. Add chicken and toss to make sure chicken is covered on all sides. Seal bag and refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375. Once marinated, place chicken on baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes or until cooked through.

Brian and I both thought that they were good, but not five-star material. Garlic may have helped if added to the marinade, but not bad enough that I wouldn’t consider making them again with a little tweaking. Served with sautéed zucchini and a fresh tomato and mozzarella salad was perfect.

Butter bean hummus

I’ve been dreaming of making this and I finally made my dream come true. It’s amazingly smooth, creamy and delicately flavored. It puts regular hummus to shame.

Ingredients:

  • 15 oz can butter beans, rinsed and drained
  • juice of 1/3 lemon
  • drizzle olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon tahini
  • 1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • sprinkle of cumin(optional)
  • sea salt
  • pepper

Combine all ingredients into food processor. Pulse until smooth.

Use as dip for vegetables or crackers. I really wanted to smear some on crusty bread and top it off with some freshly sliced tomatoes. That would have been amazing. Or to add fresh basil. Oh, the possibilities.

Salmon fillets-two ways

Here are two easy marinades for salmon fillets.

Honey-Soy Salmon: slightly sweet with lots of flavor

Ingredients(per 4oz of salmon):

  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp melted butter
  • 1/4 tsp minced garlic

Combine all ingredients in a resealable bag.

Mix well. Add salmon and let marinate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Broil 5-9 minutes(depending on thickness) or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

 

Lemon-Dill Salmon: zesty lemon with a kick

Ingredients(per 4oz salmon):

  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp dill weed
  • 1/4 tsp tarragon
  • 1/4 tsp minced garlic
  • salt and pepper

Combine all ingredients.

Mix well.

Pour into resealable bag, add salmon, toss to coat. Marinate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Broil for 5-9 minutes(depending on thickness) or until salmon flakes easily with fork.