Friday, December 31, 2010

Chocolate Chip Granola Banana Bread

What better way to end the Old Year,  than to snuggle up with a comfy little throw blanket, watch re-runs on T.V...
or if you're a thrifter like me, get some VCR movies for 69 cents at Goodwill, or if you're lucky, you can get DVD's for $2.99, and get some real good ones, if they're even available. One great VCR movie I still cherish, and like to watch it on New Year's Eve is "When Sally Met Harry" It's from the 80's and I love the 80's classics. There's a quote in there that makes you think,

"What does this song mean? My whole life, I don't know what this song means. I mean, 'Should old acquaintance be forgot'? Does that mean that we should forget old acquaintances, or does it mean if we happened to forget them, we should remember them, which is not possible because we already forgot?"

I'm certain this has happened to a few of us, over the course of time..."old acquaintance forgotten"...not by choice, it's just how life takes a different turn. Everybody has something in their life that sometimes they just don't wish to share with others, so they fade away from sight, meaning...they would rather not be "acquainted" with you. I think it has a lot to do with the economy changing, location, jobs, family, relationships, so it's easier for them not to share things with you, or not wanting to divulge information, that might change your friendship...instead, ending it is the better option...sigh!

So, make yourself a nice hot cup of your favorite herb tea, and have a nice piece of banana for me and my family, I like to add chocolate chips, not just in the mix, but sprinkle them on top of the bread.

Just as with my cheesecake which I have memorized the recipe, which is so basic, so as the banana bread. It turns out perfect every time. You can of course, omit the chocolate chips, and add nuts, and raisins, or dried cranberries,but always add dried fruits, and not chopped fresh ones. The mashed ripe, (not overripe) bananas add the moisture, and any other ingredients other than the chocolate chips, nuts raisins or dried fruits will make it too wet, and it will not rise properly. I added half a cup of granola to it, knowing that it's dry and will even give it a better flavor, and make it healthy.  The baking time is done to a science, I promise you this is another "tried and true" over, and over again recipe. Recipe, to follow!

Chocolate Chip Granola Banana Bread
My own recipe

1 1/2 cup All purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup Granola (if you don't use granola, add 1/2 c. flour)
2 eggs
3 ripe bananas ( mashed with a fork)
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable, or canola oil
dash of salt
dash of cinnamon
1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a loaf pan with nonstick spray. Mash the bananas with a potato masher, in a small bowl. In a medium bowl mix the sugar, the milk the eggs, and the oil with a whisk together till it's incorporated. In a large bowl, add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, the salt, and the cinnamon. Stir together. Now, you are ready to add the liquid mixture, then, fold in the bananas, the granola, and last, fold in half the chocolate chips, and spoon into the loaf pan, adding the last half of the chips, sprinkling it on the top. Bake at 350 degrees for the first 30 minutes, lower the temperature to 325 degrees, and bake for an additional 25-30 minutes. It should look like the photo above, just the right color, nice and golden brown, separated on the sides of the pan, the chocolate chips should be nicely sitting on the top (not sunken in) in the pan for about 20 minutes, before inverting it. This is a tried and true
"fail proof" recipe, every time. I guarantee it!
Before you all start your New Year's Eve celebration, others in various countries are getting closer, and some may be already bringing in the New Year, so I'm wishing you all a healthy, prosperous, safe, and...
Happy New Year!

(click on link below)

Here's how my last day of 2010 was spent with my daughter, and grandchildren! First, we spent a glorious couple hours at our local zoo, The Dreher Park Zoo, which is just a short drive from their house, it was another gorgeous day, temperature in the low seventies, perfect breeze to just wander through checking out the different and interesting species. Did not get to see the tigers, and some of the other animals, but managed to get some great photos of the ones, we did.

This is the entrance of the zoo!
My little tour guides, that I'm following through, while entering cute is that?
These swans were so graceful, and beautiful, and the weather was so, so perfect. There were a lot of people there today, must be tourists, and of course, locals!
A little Koala bear, snoozing. Took this shot close up, with my new camera...mind you, there's a screen, dividing us from the little bear, but you would not notice it!
These parrots were actually posing for me, and afterwards, flapping their wings, making a if to say, "no more pictures!"
Here's a duo, so cute and playful!
Although this statue is cool, but a bit "scary!"
It was so hard to take a picture of this little fellow, he was running so fast back-and-forth, that I barely caught this shot of him/her?
Next, was the gift shop...have your choice of these cute little stuffed animals, if your don't mind spending $12.99 for them, which actually is not too bad, because they are so unique!...I would have take the frog, for see if my "prince" will come at the stroke of midnight...but in the meantime, my loyal kitty, Prince, is constantly at my side.
Here's a beautiful python, with his owner, Just look closely, at the python, he is sticking his venomous tongue out!
I went up to the python, and petted him, and was told, that "you cannot pet this particular python"...OK, just a warning? could have been bitten?...don't know, but will not do it again.
clip_image010 does this song go? it? "Do, or D, a female Deer"...this little cutie posed for me too, so friendly, I could have taken him/her home!
Watch out for this humongous Florida alligator...and we have plenty of these in our local canals. One of the reasons why I would not want a house with a canal in the back. They come out of the water and sneak up in your back porch or garage...well, maybe not this big!
Florida flamingos are so amazingly beautiful, they are so unique...notice, how they do everything synchronized. Such great creatures, of God!
Just look at their sleek long necks, and the gorgeous pink colors...that's why they call them Pink Flamingos...only, in  Florida!.... We are so proud of them!
Last...these beautiful pink, and coral colored birds...don't know the species name...anyway...ddddthat's all folks!
Hope I didn't freeze up your computer, or put you to sleep, it's New Year's nice to have spent time with all my friends through Foodbuzz, and all others, as well...without you, I would be just posting to myself!
See you, in safe, if you're at a party, or driving late! XOXO

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Comforting Frittata

With Christmas behind us, and leftovers just about gone, too much sweets eaten...a nice comforting vegetarian frittata will not only satisfies your hunger, but you can have your "breakfast, for dinner" as well. How can you go wrong with a perfect blend of sauteed sliced potatoes, fresh chopped tomatoes, and fresh spinach, topping it off with shredded cheese of your choice ( I used, cheddar)...scramble up at least 6-8 eggs, and added all together cooking it on the stove top, making sure you are not scrambling it, just lift a little from the edges to let it cook evenly, and finishing it off in the broiler. Yumm! Something your family will enjoy on a lazy and not much to do, evening.
There's no set recipe for this fritatta, just start out sauteing some chopped onions in about 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, along with about 4 small potatoes peeled and sliced thin, saute until potatoes are almost tender, adding about 1 large or a couple small fresh tomatoes, salt and pepper and a good handful of fresh spinach right into the mixture. Let it all cook together until spinach gets wilted. I even added about 1/4 cup of plain crushed tomatoes, (tomato sauce, marinara sauce will also work) but not tomato paste. To serve 6 servings with this, I scrambled 8 eggs, and poured it right over the vegetable mixture...see photo below!
In this process, all you do is lift a little bit around the edges, not disturbing the rest of the egg mixture, letting the uncooked eggs flow to the edge. 
At this point, you can see the edges setting, but the middle is still kind of wet, so with a wooden spoon, or spatula, carefully make a small incision in the center, tilting the pan from left to right to get to an even flow for setting more.
This may sound like a small "surgery process" or some kind of experiment, but it's just to make sure you have an even, nice, and fluffy frittata. Here's the last process, below!
Last process, I added a 16 ounce bag of shredded cheddar cheese, and a small amount of Mexican style can add in place of this, shredded mozzarella, Swiss, or just grated Parmesan cheese. Also, you can variate the vegetables, and the spices, but in this case my grandchildren were eating this, and I had to be careful not making it too spicy for them. You can top this off with a nice salsa, and serve it with crusty bread. This dish served 4 adults, and 4 young children. Satisfaction guaranteed!
Actually, there was more food, which my daughter prepared...always thinking, there's not enough. We prepared all this at my son's house, just to have an easy casual dinner...yeahh, right!
We always have a bag or two of frozen shrimp, around. You can also use cooked frozen too, just add it to the sauce when it's completely done, and heat it up. In the case of the peeled deveined frozen shrimp, just saute in a small amount of olive oil, till they turn pink, and added to the sauce. I have a link back from June of this year, before I decided to join Foodbuzz-as you can see, I didn't even get a comment on it, not even looking for anyone to follow, except only family, and a handful of friend following my blog-out of guilt, or pity!...and never commenting. OK, just check the link out, even the photos, so...bad!
Shrimp Marinara
The sauted shrimp is being added to the sauce, just fold it into the sauce, and it's ready to serve over pasta of your choice. The fritatta, is being prepared on the right...Buon Appetito!...ready to serve the "Strarving Artists"...seriously, they are all taking special art classes, my son Joey, is not only a writer, but an artist too, and it kind of runs in the family, on both sides.
I guess they are all working on "Alice in son doing artwork on surfboards, with special waterproof markers.

"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat.
"I don’t much care where--" said Alice.
"Then it doesn’t matter which way you go," said the Cat.

"--so long as I get SOMEWHERE," Alice added as an explanation.
"Oh, you’re sure to do that," said the Cat, "if you only walk long enough."
(Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 6)

(The above quote is often mistakenly referred to as: "If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there." But this line is not in the Alice in Wonderland books.)
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Monday, December 27, 2010

Holiday Cheesecake, and Christmas Memories

As the year is dwindling down, and Christmas is over, a New Year is awaiting us to start "anew" with a clean slate of resolutions, and promises. Leaving the old year with fond memories, and some sadness...not just what kinds of gifts we got for the holidays, and what parties or events we attended, but thinking ahead for the coming year, of what we can do for each other, to give, and get more BLESSINGS!
After visiting my new and beautiful friend, Jamie's blog @Mangiabella and reading her inspirational posts, and quotes, reminds me, that life is so precious, and that the true joys in our lives are family, and dear friends... let us not forget our faithful pets, and embrace new friends.
I concluded this thought, after leaving Jamie's blog, that:

"Bringing gladness to the hearts of others, and giving of the Greatest Gift of All"...(my quote)

So, I will share my most favorite cheesecake of all, that I make, just about for every special occasion...have memorized the ingredients, and method, to the point that this is seriously a "scientific" method, that you must follow, and not sway from it. It's a New York, or should I say New York Style Cheesecake, that can be left simple, without the sour cream topping, which really gives it a more amazing flavor, and dresses it up, but you can do it without it, because you will not see "cracks" on top of the cheesecake...I promise you that. You can dress this cheesecake up for the summer, with a fresh fruit topping, or for the holiday, as I did, with rainbow, holiday sprinkles, and surround them with handmade chocolate pieces that already has sprinkles on it, from your local chocolate shop, as I did. I'm not going into the "song and dance" recipe, to write it down, I will link the recipe back to this summer, when I made it the last time.
I kid you not...this is a "tried and true" recipe, that you will want to follow, to a T! The only important thing is, you should, and must make it the day before, so it will set nicely. Actually, I made this two days before Christmas, and let it chill nicely in my frig.

So, here's the link, and recipe: New York Style Cheesecake

If you want to please all your family members and dear friends who you have invited to your home for the best lasagne...ever!...and not feel guilty for making a meat sauce, since so many folks have turned vegetarian, or have cut out red meat, or eat less meat, as in a lot of cases, again, I say, this lasagne is a must on your list. My son, and wife have been vegetarians now for a couple years, my son, on-and-off, but for the last few months seriously on!
My daughter Lora  and I made this, the day before, a "real dual labor of love"...(and a few mother-daughter kitchen squabbles)...but all with love. She made the sauce, and "bechamel"...yes, a beautiful rich bechamel, from scratch. Lots of fresh basil, Parmigiana, and sliced...not shredded mozzarella cheese.
Unfortunately, she did not have dried lasagne noodles, neither of us wanted to run to the store at the last minute, on Christmas Eve, late in the afternoon, when all the stores were about to close, so either, we abandon the idea, or make homemade pasta, (without a pasta machine)...both pasta machines, hers and mine were at my house. I was ready to jump in my car, and drive the 7 miles back to my place to get the machine, but she did not let me, and believe me, the only solution I had, was to throw all the flour and eggs into her kitchen aid mixer with the "dough hook" mix it up, and use plenty of "elbow grease" to roll the huge dough. End result...truly amazing!

Recipe for the pasta dough, enough for a huge 10x13 lasagne pan, and extra dough and sauce for a small separate portion. This is my formula for fresh pasta dough, enough for 8 servings.
6 cups all-purpose flour
6 large eggs
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt, and pepper, to taste
Have extra flour to roll it in, at least an additional cup, or two. Mix all the ingredients together, in you mixer, with a dough hook, or even in your bread machine. If you don't have these kitchen wares, then you have to mix it by hand.
It has to be well incorporated, glossy, and shiny; at this point you are either ready to roll the dough to almost the last thinness, or divide dough in half, and roll it into a large cylinder shape fairly thin, but not too thin, cut into large strips with a pizza cutter, or a sharp knife, let it dry a little, adding more flour as you work, so it doesn't get sticky, especially, on the bottom of the dough. Drop a few pieces in a huge pot of boiling water, with a sm. amt. of oil in the water... do not drain the whole thing, just remove each piece one by one, drizzling more olive oil on it, to separate. By this point, you should have your sauces ready to assemble. Starting with a small amount of the red sauce on the bottom, the strips of dough, the bechamel, and the cheeses, ending with the pasta sauce, and cheeses on the top. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven, covered for the first 30 minutes, and uncovered for an additional 20 minutes, or until it bubbles, and gets nice and golden on the top. Let it rest for at least 15-20 minutes before cutting into it, to serve.
For the sauce: We used a huge restaurant size can, about 64 ounce, of the Contadina crushed tomatoes, and at least 3 cups of bechamel sauce, along with the grated, and sliced mozzarella cheese, that you can slice, yourself (not the fresh buffalo mozzarella) Plenty of fresh basil, just saute a large chopped onion, small amt. of chopped garlic, salt and pepper, and adding the whole basil to the sauce, and rolled up basil leaves, sliced thin, in between the layers of the assembly. The sauce is cooked for about 45 minutes. All vegetarian, and so amazingly yummy!
 OK...Feast your eyes! Although, this dessert to me, is a traditional dessert, perfect for 4th of July...but in this case, NO RULES, just an amazing Pasta Frolla-which is an Italian, sweet tart, filled with custard, and topped with fresh berries. Our dear friend, Ylaria made this...did not ask for the recipe for the frolla, but here's a good one which I use, occasionally. As for the custard, you can google a good one.

Pasta Frolla-Italian Sweet Pastry Dough

  1. 1 In a bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, and zest.
  2. 2 Cut in the butter, until it resembles coarse meal.
  3. 3 Add the egg and the vanilla and toss the mixture until incorporated.
  4. 4 Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead very lightly, forming into a disk.
  5. 5 Chill, wrapped in plastic at least 1 hour or overnight.
  6. 6 Let the dough stand at room temperature until softened, but still firm enough to roll out
  1. ? Have a question about this recipe? Ask the community.
Ylaria, who is from Bari, Italy, made this amazing tart, and the custard was "to die for" was not pleased as we all are at some point...or most of the time, critical of her own homemade custard, that it wasn't thick enoug. Honest? why would you want a thick and rubbery custard, when you can have the most splendid, "heavenly custard" nestled among the fresh berries that we get all season here, in S. Florida (but more expensive) the pasta frolla=pastry dough was so perfect too, that you wanted to savory every little bite!
For all of us "carnivorous" creatures, a beautiful tray of sliced broiled steak (no waste in slicing) made by my son-in-law, Chef Fabrizio (off at lunchtime) working later. We purchased a gorgeous package of 5 huge rib-eye boneless steaks at Costco, with (2 whole steaks left over) broiled to perfection, topped with fresh tomato bruschetta, over a fresh layer of, my, so perfect for "steak lovers...and like I said, NO WASTE!
My "fluffy" haired grandson, opening a present; look at all the little cars scattered all over the floor, his newest favorite toys!
My sweet " girls" (son's daughters) ...enjoying auntie Lora's cookies!

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Very Merry Christmas to all!

You might find this decoration "weird, or silly" but I think it's really chic, and festive. Since I don't have any foods to post, after the last two days of spending time with my granddaughters, and helping out my daughter with last minute shopping, this is all I have to show for my Christmas decoration, which is my "smart" thrift find, that I'm posting...after all this blog is called "food and thrift finds" I'm showing off my silk plant, which I bought at Goodwill, like new, and so perfect, for $3.99, the whit lights were $1.99, the pretty dark blue liqueur glasses, with the wrought iron case, $2.99, and last, but not least, the pretty cobalt blue vase, that I filled with our local sea shells, $, just think, under $15.00 for all. Actually $12.00. Can't beat that, and it's so enjoyable!
My amazing kitty Prince,...little old, and wise guy, almost 18 yrs. old. I took this photo, in pitch dark, and turned out so nice. He is a Maine coon, with the longest legs I have ever seen on any cat. So sweet, and protective, my little alarm clock, every morning at 7:00AM!
Today, we went to City Place, in West Palm Beach...a magical city, within a city. Very popular place where everyone goes, and meets. Full of shops, and restaurants, and they actually are surrounded by condos, that people own, or rent. Oh so beautiful! These poinsettias are found at just about every Christmasy!
This was an original church from the thirties that is still surviving, and renovated into a theatre. The entire City Place is built around this lovely former church. Every hour, the church bells chime, and the water falls comes on to a wonderful this case, it's to Christmas carols.
The Christmas tree at City Place is so beautiful at night, all lit up with  lights. Plenty of parking space in the 4 story garage, and on the streets, as well!
Only in Florida, you get to witness something like this...Flip flops, on one girl, and boots on the other. The weather, about in the low seventies!
OK...Last, but not least...Yeahhh1 I just received my awesome giveaway gift, from Veronica, 
The Enchanted Cook. who had a giveaway, and I was one of the winners. Thank you so very much Veronica, and Thank you O for sending this pair of Olive oil, and vinegar combo. So amazing, I can hardly wait to try this pretty, that I'm almost afraid to open it. Wow!... this is my best Christmas present, ever!
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Monday, December 20, 2010

Goat Cheese with Pistachios, and Cranberries

We had such an eerie glad it's Monday, and in 4 days, Christmas Eve will be here. All last week, my daughter and I were involved with the last of the Christmas presents for our close friends' children, and last of ours, as well. We're still trying to go on with our lives missing Sheryl, knowing how we spent quite a few Christmases together. Her horrific accidental death left such a toll on my daughter-in-law, and son, that it will be such a long healing process. On Saturday, we hosted a memorial for her, at my son's house. Out of respect I only took a few pictures of 2 of my appetizers, and some of the fabulous sweets from Costco.I will share the recipe with you for this awesome cheese ball-which really supposed to be a cheese log, but as usual, I want to adapt it my way.
So, my daughter-in-law requested to make a baked brie, and suggested that I serve it with pepper jelly, which is a great combo with the brie...I suggested to wrap the brie in puff pastry, and just spread the jelly on the top. Not knowing, that there's an actual recipe for it, I proceeded to make it my way, the first thing of course; scraping off the rind from the cheese which comes off so easily, and let the puff pastry thaw out for easier rolling. Also, unfortunately I did not bake it in a high 400 degree temp. I baked it at 350, which is a med. temp. for 35 minutes. Also, I brushed the entire finished crust, before baking it, with an egg wash. Same result, just from memory, of baking with puff pastry. Recipes, to follow!

Goat Cheese with Pistachio, and Cranberries
Adapted from Real Simple Magazine, Nov. 2010

2 tablespoons roasted pistachios, chopped
2 tablespoons dried cranberries, chopped
1 8- to 10-ounce log fresh goat cheese
crackers or bread, for serving

On a large plate, combine the pistachios and cranberries.
Roll the goat cheese in the fruit-and-nut mixture to coat. Serve with the crackers or bread.
note: I rolled the cheese into a ball, and then rolled it in the fruit, and nut mixtures. Serves 8

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Baked Brie with Pepper Jelly
adapted from Best Bites

Puff pastry comes with two sheets per box, so remove one sheet and allow it to stand at room temperature for about 40 minutes. Place the remaining sheet in a freezer-safe bag and save it for another use.
When the pastry has thawed, gently unfold it on a very lightly floured surface. If there are any cracks, lightly moisten them and gently press them back together.

Carefully cut the wheel of brie in half lengthwise (it helps if it's cold). Place one half, rind side-down, on the pastry. Spread a layer of pepper jelly over the cheese. Place the other half, rind side-up on the jelly, almost like a brie sandwich (let's not even go there).

If you want, you can spread another layer of jelly on top of the rind.
You'll want 2-3 inches of pastry surrounding the cheese, but any more than that will get bulky, so you may need to trim about 1" of pastry on one or more sides (reserve the scraps for decorations). Carefully wrap the pastry around the cheese, sealing the edges shut so the melted cheese and jelly won't leak out when it's baked.
If you want, you can have a jar of pepper jelly handy so if there isn't enough of that flavor in the baked brie (it actually ends up coming out pretty subtle), you can add a little more. Because it's awesome.

Ingredients, and directions

1 8-oz. wheel of baby Brie
1/2 package puff pastry, thawed for about 40 minutes at room temperature
About 2-4 tablespoons pepper jelly (try to find some without onions, garlic, or other spices; fruit juice is okay; Tabasco is a great, widely available, reliable choice.
1 egg white mixed with about 2 teaspoons cold water
Preheat oven to 400.
Gently unfold the puff pastry sheet, mending any broken spots. Cut the brie in half lengthwise and place one half, rind down, on the pastry. Spread with jelly and then place the other half of the brie, rind up, on the cheese. If necessary, trim the excess pastry and then fold it over the cheese, sealing the edges. If desired, decorate the brie with decorative shapes cut from the excess dough and brush it with the egg white/water mixture
Place the bundle, seam-down, on a lightly greased baking dish. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. Serve with crackers, bread, and fresh fruit (like strawberries, apples, pears, and grapes) if desired. This is perfect as an easy, elegant holiday appetizer.

Baklava, from Costco is always a nice addition to your holiday table. It sure eases up on your dessert dilemma.
These pastries are especially yummy, they are flaky and light, filled with raspberry, or cheese filled. In the center, are, mini deviled chocolate cakes, with white chocolate shavings. Yumm!
The edible fruits are such a joy, and beautiful addition to your holiday table, that you are very fortunate to have someone send this beautiful fruit bouquet to you.
There were more foods which I did not take a photo of, a huge tray of all kinds of delicious deli foods, and a huge restaurant pan of lasagna...we all celebrated the life of Sheryl, a beautiful lady, and blessed soul!

My son stopped by this morning to catch some waves, on the beach. Such a beautiful day in S. Florida today...plenty of sunshine, temperature a nice pleasant sixty+ degrees. My granddaughter Sophia, and I took a little ride, just over the bridge from the Palm Beach island, to Lake Worth, a trendy little section, full of the cutest shops, and eateries. This particular eatery, is Dave's, and it's like a Key West style place, with such great typical Florida tourist food, that we all welcome, to feel the special S. Florida atmosphere, that we take for granted, most of the time, at this time of the year.

You can actually see, how it's getting darker, gradually. My trusty little new Canon camera, even captured the full moon...or is it the full moon yet?...By the time I arrived to my condo, unpacked, checked my mail and "schlepped" all my packages upstairs, it has gotten totally dark, before 7PM...end of story! Thank you for having the patience to accompany me!