Banana Bread

Banana Bread

I recently got my hands on a loaf pan and I have been dying to use it. I’ve had for about a week and a half now and haven’t had the time to do any serious baking since I bought it. In fact the only time I’ve used it so far is with some left over batter from some Brown Butter Pumpkin Cupcakes I made using my Pumpkin Puree.  Let me tell you that was delicious. Anyway, this week has been a nightmare of transportation problem and I just haven’t had the time (or gas for my stove) to do much cooking. However, knowing that our car won’t be fixed before Monday at the earliest, Friday we stocked up on lot’s of fruit and vegetables and all the stuff we’d need to get through the weekend without leaving the house. I might have been a little over zealous in my shopping. I’ve had a bunch of bananas sitting around for a few days now. We’ve eaten a few but they’ve begun attracting the fruit flies. Perfect for making banana bread, which is also super easy. And seeing as we planted over 50 banana trees on the property I figure I will need something to do with all those bananas.

Banana Bread

3-4 Bananas (I used 6 Bananitas they are much smaller than the standard stateside banana)

80 g butter melted

3/4 – 1 cup of sugar

1 egg beaten

1 TBSP rum

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1 TBSP baking powder

dash of salt

1/2 c flour

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Mash bananas leaving some chunks. Melt butter. In large bowl combined mashed bananas and melted butter. Cream in sugar. Add beaten egg, rum and spices. In med bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add dry mixture to wet mixture and stir with wooden spoon until mixed well. Pour into buttered loaf pan. Bake for 50 mins to 1 hour or until skewer comes clean.

Roasted Ayote and Pumpkin Puree

Ayote

So Sunday I went on a bit of a cooking spree. I had a few recipes I wanted to try out that I knew would take most of the day. Most days with the construction going on I don’t have four or more solid hours to spend in the kitchen. So these things have been piling up in my To Do list. Sunday seemed an ideal day to play in the kitchen since everyone here takes the day off. So I spent the day baking bread, making jam (it’s still not quite right) and roasting coffee.

But after the day of baking I still needed to make dinner. I’ve been seeing so many posts lately on facebook about pumpkin picking and pumpkin recipes on Pintrest I was feeling a bit jealous. So the other day, I had bought what is here called an ayote, and is a pumpkin. I had been hesitant to buy one before because they are large and I cook only for the two of us. But Pinterest has inspired me to be creative. So last night I decided to cut into it and roast it up. For dinner we had Sesame Encrusted Sea Bass with a Ginger Mango sauce and Roasted Ayote over brown rice.

I cut the Ayote in half and then into quarters. I coated the wedges with coconut oil (it’s warm enough here that it is liquid). Then I seasoned all four wedges with a little salt. I decided two would be enough for dinner and the other two I would puree. The two for puree, I only oiled and salted but the other two I added some cinnamon and some sugar. I put all for on a baking sheet and through them a 425 F over for about an hour until fork tender.

After dinner I shredded the cooled wedges with a fork. Then all I did was throw the shredded pumpkin into a mason jar and use my immersion blender to blend it until smooth. In the end it was super easy and the flavor is amazing. Now I just need to decide what to make with the puree.

Roasted Ayote

1/4 Ayote  (green  pumpkin) cut into wedges

Coconut Oil

Cinnamon

Salt

Sugar

Pre-heat oven to 425 F

Place pumpkin wedges on baking sheet and coat with oil

Sprinkle salt, sugar, and cinnamon on wedges.

Cook for 45 mins- 1 hour untill fork tender

Pumpkin Puree

Roasted pumpkin wedges oiled and salted

Scrape the roasted pumpkin from the skin from a pan

Put in blender or food processor (I used an immersion blender) and blend until smooth

You can add water to thin out the puree

Pumpkin Puree

Book Review- Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese

So lately when I’m not cooking I’m reading about food. Sometimes I’m reading other food blogs, hunting down a specific recipe and other times I’m reading books like the Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan about food politics. I’ve certainly learned a lot about food, where it comes from, how it’s grown and how it should be grown. All of these things influence the current course that I’m on in my life. It influences where I choose to live and how I plan on living that life. I have to say, in general while I’ll read just about anything I’m not the kind of girl who can sit down and read a cookbook. Maybe I’ll read the table of contents, possibly the introduction to each chapter but certainly not the cookbook.

When I say I sat down the other day and read the entirety of “Make the Bread, Buy the Butter” it is no exaggeration. Ok, to be honest maybe I skimmed some of the the recipes but I did read the book. Which I don’t normally do with a cookbook. However, this is not just a cookbook. Reese examines whether or not you should make or buy many traditional comfort foods. Not only does she do a cost analysis on which is cheaper homemade or store bought (almost all things are cheaper to make), she also gives a fair run down of the hassle involved. This is perhaps where it differed from your ordinary cookbook. I felt there was a bit of narrative. You really get the feel of how her knowledge increased as she experiments with making different foods and going so far as to raise her own chickens, ducks, goats etc.

Reese has a great sense of humor and it really comes through in her tales of animal husbandry. I particularly enjoyed her Thanksgiving turkey experiment. I don’t know that I’ve ever read a cookbook that had a cast of characters both human and animal with such strong personalities. Heck, I don’t know that I’ve ever read a cookbook with characters period. By the end of the book I felt that I had been allowed a small glimpse into her home and her family. And she shares not only her successes but also her failures with a refreshing honesty different from the ordinary food blogs out there that present everything as easy.

So, anyway- if you have an interest in cooking from scratch I highly recommend this book. I can’t say I’ve tried any of her recipes but her experience make me feel less alone in my quest to do it all by hand.

You can order the book from Amazon.com.

Make the Bread, Buy the Butter: What You Should (and Shouldn't!) Cook from Scratch to Save Time and Money

 

 

Bagels… Need I Say More?

Yum

Yum

If there is one thing I can always count on my mother having in her kitchen it’s bagels and cream cheese. I remember when I was a little girl on special Sundays we would get up early and drive all the way to Cranston (which in RI is far) to go to Rainbow Bakery to get real bagels and deli cream cheese, not the frozen Lender’s bagels that came from the grocery store. When you got there early enough the bagels were still warm and that lovely warm yeasty smell filled the car on the ride home. It was definitely worth the drive in my opinion. As time when on and bagels grew in popularity, the local bakery in town decided to send their baker off to bagel school. Apparently bagel school took MONTHS and required they buy special equipment. Perhaps this is why I never considered the possibility of making my own bagels until recently.

While I traveled Central America, one of the things I missed most in my diet was bagels. It has been my go to breakfast food for as long as I can remember. Whenever I found a town with a place that had bagels I can guarantee you, we ate there everyday we were in town. By far and away the best bagel shop I found was the Bagel Barn in Antigua, Guatemala. They have a witty, quirky menu, real cream cheese and amazing bagels. Plus they have super speedy wifi, which is almost equally as important. I spent many hours sitting there drinking nice iced coffee drinks, full of yummy bagely goodness surfing the web. Ahh, the Bagel Barn.

Recently, I have begun looking into baking things I would never had considered. Since I made my own wedding cake, I though maybe I was up to tackling bagels. Just because I live on an island in the middle of nowhere is no reason a girl should have to go without bagels. And so today I did it. Bagels. From scratch, not the freezer. After reading many recipes I found on the internet I used the recipe for New York Style Bagels I found at The Sophisticated Gourmet.  She does such a good job of explaining I recommend checking it out. It takes a few hours to make them but in the end it’s not that bad and SO SO worth it.

Now I just have to conquer cream cheese…

Bagels- Makes 8 medium sized bagels

2 tsp yeast

1 1/2 TBSP sugar

1 1/4 c. water

3 1/2 c flour

1 1/2 tsp salt

In 1/2 cup of warm water pour sugar and yeast. Do not stir. Let sit 5 minutes then stir yeast and sugar until it dissolves.

Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and pour in the sugar/yeast mixture.

Pour in half the remaining water and mix. Stir in the remaining water as needed for your climate. You want a moist and firm dough.

Knead dough about 10 minutes until it is smooth and elastic. It should for a stiff firm dough.

Lightly brush a large bowl with oil and turn dough to coat.

Dough

Cover with a damp dish cloth and set in a warm place to rise for one hour. The dough should double in size.

After the dough has risen it should be double in size

After the dough has risen it should be double in size

Punch down dough and let rest for 10 minutes.

Carefully divide the dough into eight pieces. Shape each piece into a round dough ball.

Divide dough into 8 pieces

Divide dough into 8 pieces

Coat a finger in flour and gently press into the center of the dough ball to form a ring. Stretch the hole about 1/3 the diameter of the bagel and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

Uses your finger to stretch out a hole

Uses your finger to stretch out a hole

After shaping bagels, cover with a damp towel and let rest for an additional 10 minutes.

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bring a large stock pot of water to boil. Using a slotted spoon lower bagels into the water.

Within seconds the bagels should float to the top. Boil for 1 minute per side. Two minutes per side for chewier bagels.

Boil one minute per side

Boil one minute per side

Once the bagels are boiled transfer to the parchment paper covered baking sheet.

At this point you can add toppings with the addition of an egg wash. I made plain bagels.

Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown.

Enjoy!

Golden Brown

Golden Brown

It’s not a cookie, it’s not a scone- it’s a BISCUIT

A couple of months ago I got a craving for one of my favorite Portland breakfast eateries- Pine State Biscuits. As I began talking about this with the international crowd I was hanging out with I realized biscuits are a uniquely American thing. That golden brown, warm, fluffy lump of buttery flakey goodness doesn’t exist. In England and Australia they use the word biscuit to refer to a type of cookie.  All they know of biscuits comes from watching American movies and TV. “You eat them with gravy, right?” I got asked. Yes, you can eat them with gravy, or jam. You can eat biscuits any number of other delightful ways, like using  them to make a  sandwich. Which is what Pine State Biscuits does. They put everything in the world on a sandwich. Check this photo out from brunch a couple of weeks ago that my sister-in-law Amber posted yesterday to my FB wall.

pinestate

Anyway, for several months now I have been experimenting with my biscuit recipe and I believe I have finally perfected it. The final ingredient- the cast iron skillet that was a gift from Amber as well. Let me say, I’ve fallen in love with cast iron, especially for baking. I used the same pan for pizza the other night and it was stellar. Everything browns on the bottom but does not burn. Perfection. In addition to my cast iron, I also received a number of other nifty kitchen toys that make life much easier in the kitchen. I was amazed at the difference I get just from using a proper size bowl. Now my dough forms easily into a ball whereas before I would be chasing ingredients around the edge. And I could go on and on about my pastry cutter. But this is not about kitchen devices- it’s about biscuits. In addition to my cast iron skillet I came back with baking powder from the states. I can get baking powder down here but I had noticed before they weren’t rising as tall as I thought they should. The difference in height I get with the stuff from the states is amazing. I made a batch in the states and noticed this as well. So quality ingredients and the right tools really do make a difference.

Biscuits1

Look at how tall they are

Look at how tall they are

Biscuit 3

Biscuits

2 1/4 c. flour

1 TBSP baking powder

1 tsp salt

1/3 c. ice cold butter

1 TBSP honey

1 c. milk

Pre-heat oven to 425 F

Whisk together dry ingredients in a medium bowl.

Cut in ice cold butter into it is pea sized balls.

Add honey and milk and stir in with a wooden spoon until it creates a ball.

Turn out the dough onto a floured counter top and knead 10 times. The dough should be moist but not sticky. If it’s sticky knead in more flour. This will vary depending on your climate. I use more flour because I live in the jungle.

Roll or pat out to 1/2 inch thick and cut with a cup or biscuit cutter.

Place on cookie sheet- or cast iron skillet

Cook on 425 for 13-15 minutes.

You can slather them in gravy, put butter or jam on them, or make them into sandwiches. The choice is yours. Enjoy!

I made a bacon and egg breakfast sandwich. I even got to use some of that homemade mayo I made the other night.

Bacon and Egg Breakfast Sandwich

Sometimes you need to break a few eggs

I never had any idea how many eggs I actually consumed back when I lived in the states. Eggs apparently are in EVERYTHING. They are in pasta, they are in sauces, they are breads, I could go on and on but just assume if you like it, it probably has eggs in it. When I lived in the US I bought my eggs by the half dozen, I tried to make sure I always had some on hand but they certainly weren’t something I used every day. Now here, in Nicaragua, I go through 30 eggs a week generally. And I only feed two people. I just go back from a month in the states last Monday and that number seemed absolutely ridiculous to me when I got back (I’m sure it does to you as well.) So when I went to the store Tuesday I bought a dozen. By Thursday morning I was out of eggs again. So, Trevor took the moto up to the corner to buy eggs to get told there would be no eggs until Monday. Anyway, this afternoon Trevor when out to give our friend a lift down the road and I asked him to see if he could find us some eggs.

Apparently transporting eggs 5 KM on a motorcycle is not as safe as from the corner. When he returned with the flat of eggs, a half dozen of them were broken. What do you do with half a dozen eggs in the middle of the afternoon? Omelets immediately came to my mind, but Trevor suggested mayonnaise. I’ve been talking about trying out mayonnaise from scratch but hadn’t gotten the nerve yet. I set two of the six eggs aside and whipped up a quick omelet for us and started looking into homemade mayonnaise recipes. I realized I didn’t have lemon juice, which most recipes require and started looking to see if it could be done without it. I struck up a post on PinchMySalt.com on just that subject. So I pulled out the whisk and got to work. Some significant amount of whisking time later I do in fact have homemade mayonnaise. Now I just need to figure out what to do with it. I’m thinking potato salad but I’ll keep you posted.

Mayonnaise

Mayonnaise 

1 egg yolk

1/4 tsp Dijon mustard

salt

1/4 tsp vinegar

3/4 c. oil

The recipe I found called for lemon juice which I didn’t have – in season I can get limes but it’s not the season now. I used plain white vinegar because that’s all I had here and a seedy Dijon mustard. You can see the mustard seeds but I don’t mind. I think it will enhance the flavor in the end. I followed the advice to drip the first 1/4 cup of oil on 1/4 tsp at a time while whisking. Then drizzled the remaining 1/2 cup to the mixture. I had difficulty whisking while streaming the oil but found I could tell when the mixture was getting too oily. I would simply whisk to the oiliness went a way and continue adding oil. Probably not perfect but it certainly worked for what I had.