Monday, February 27, 2012

When Good Bananas Go Bad - Make Banana Salted Caramel Muffins

Is it just me, or do bananas go from perfect to over-ripe in 5 minutes? Here's what to do when Good Bananas Go Bad.Sometimes, I feel like bananas are jerking me around. If I buy them a bit green and sit them out gently and wait patiently for the peel to yellow (and the fruit to be sweet yet have a soft snap), I will still somehow miss the moment. I swear it feels like they are unripe in the morning and before I get home in the afternoon, the whole bunch have been in a big banana brawl and left each other black and streaked.I take great pride in using every morsel of my ingredients to the best of my ability. So, I have made Banana Ice Cream, Banana Cake, Banana Mousse, and even Banana Face Cream just to use up those bad boys. When time is tight and good bananas go bad, this is my Go-To "Bad Banana" Muffin Recipe. It's fast, simple, moist and freezes well (for that teenager who likes to grab something on the go for later.)

These muffins are great all alone, but can be enhanced with a dollop of cream cheese, Earl Grey Tea Milk Jam, Honey Butter or the following recipe for Salted Caramel Drizzle.
Bananas are so good, but like all of us, they have their bad days.

RECIPE: "Bad Banana" Muffins

1 cup flour
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
Pinch of each: Ground Cardamom, Cinnamon, Nutmeg and Salt
1/4 cup Brown Sugar
1/4 cup Butter (room temperature)
1 Egg
2 Bananas (over ripe)
1/4 cup Sour Cream
1 teaspoon Vanilla

1) In one bowl, mix together the dry ingredients of flour, baking soda, and spices. Hold.
2) In a mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugar til smooth. Add the egg and continue beating until fully incorporated.
3) In a small bowl, using a fork, mash together the over-ripe bananas, sour-cream and vanilla.
4) Add the banana mash to the butter/sugar mixture and stir together with the fork.
5) Add in the dry ingredients and continue to stir with the fork until the whole batter is fully mixed in, but just a bit lumpy.

4) Fill each muffin container about 3/4 full. Bake in pre-heated 350F oven for about 20-25 minutes.

Salted Caramel Drizzle:

1/3 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons Butter
1/4 cup Heavy Cream
1/4 Teaspoon (plus more for garnish) Sea Salt (course grain)

1) In a saucepan over med/high heat, add the butter and sugar together stirring constantly until it reaches a dark caramel color (about 3-5 minutes.)

2) Carefully pour in the cream and stir vigorously until mixed together. Add the salt and continue to stir while it dissolves. If it's too thick for a drizzle, add a bit more cream.

3) While the caramel is hot, very carefully drizzle with a teaspoonful over the muffins, then garnish with a few grains of Sea Salt.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Chicken and Dumplings Roxie Waller Style

Chicken and Dumplings is a humble food that brings people together. No matter who you are, where you live or how you got here, a bowl of steaming salty broth with chunks of tender chicken floating on little rafts of parsley speckled dough will heal your woes.

Chicken and Dumplings is like a slow grinding blues song. First you just like it, then you can't help but get into it, and pretty soon all you can think about is wanting more.
When I was growing up in Southern United States (in the 70s) "Integration and busing" was still new and struggling. I remember being told that many of the "Black" parents were mad because their kids were being made to go to my "White" school, instead of the school all their parents had gone to as children. It never occurred to me then how it must have felt to have integration only move in one direction.

I lived way out in the country on a dirt road beside my Grandparents' farm and next door to my other set of Grandparents. Both Grandmothers cooked a lot, their kitchens always steamed with bubbling pots of stew or canning jars filled with jam or tomatoes. There wasn't a lot of money in those homes, it wasn't anything like the movie "The Help", and when folks made food it was generally shared with a bunch of neighbors with no regard to much else than who needed it.
I was lucky, the messages I got from my mom were about God's unconditional love and not so much of the cliches we hear about the South, now. My family is very emotional, my mom plays piano by ear (and can tear it up), and I heard a lot of gospel music. By the time I was out traveling on my own, I had a natural love for gutsy, soul-throbbing-with-just-a-touch-of-humor blues (oh, yeah.)This month my global buddies (we call ourselves the Let's Lunch bunch) are posting recipes that are inspired by music. To tell ya the truth, I can hardly listen to music when doing anything else because it just takes me over; I'm not kidding. I love all kinds of music and it was hard to pick just one, but eventually I always go back to my beginnings.Both my Grandmothers made Chicken and Dumplings, but my mom's mother (Roxie Waller) made hers just a little differently. Grandma Waller rolled out the dumplings instead of leaving them in clumps. As my mom will tell ya, my grandfather absolutely loved Roxie's food and would hardly ever eat anyone else's cooking. I can still hear him slurping up those dumpling noodles, and then sopping up the broth with a biscuit til the plate almost didn't need washing.

I guess when I mixed the feel I get from Chicken and Dumplings, the memories of the South, and how the food brought people together (even in the midst of poverty, tension and growing pains), it just felt like Jazzy Blues.
Of course, this food can't help but make ya feel good, so it couldn't be sad blues. It had to be funny, and the song, "If I Can't Sell It", has always made me giggle out loud and grind my hips. If you can listen to it without moving, I think you should get your pulse checked.

I'll post the video, but if they have to take it down - here's the link, too:

If I Can't Sell It, I'm Gonna Sit On It, Cuz I Sure Ain't Giving It Away

RECIPE: Chicken and Dumplings Roxie Waller Style

1 (3-4 pound) Whole Chicken (farm raised preferred)
1 Carrot (chopped)
1 Celery Stalk (chopped)
1 Onion (chopped)
1 Bay leaf
*optional - pinch of Red Pepper Flakes

1 cup Flour
1/4 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 teaspoon salt, pinch of pepper
1 Tablespoon Crisco (melted) or you can use Bacon Fat
1/3 cup Buttermilk
2 Tablespoons Chopped Fresh Parsley

1) Place whole chicken in a large pot with the chopped carrot, celery, onion and bay leaf. Cover completely with water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours til chicken is tender and fall off the bone good. (Make the dumplings while the chicken is cooking.)

2) Skim the broth, then remove the pot from the heat. Using a fork, remove the chicken meat from the bones and hold to the side in a dish.

3) Strain the broth and discard the vegetables, then return the broth and the chicken to the pot. Season with salt and pepper and optional red pepper flakes.

4) Bring to a simmer and place the dumplings into the pot, also. Cook at a low simmer for about 15-20 minutes, stir occasionally. Season, to taste and serve in bowls.

Recipe: Dumplings

1) In a bowl whisk together the flour, salt and baking powder.

2) In another bowl, whisk together the melted shortening (fat) and buttermilk.

3) Using a fork, combine the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and add the chopped parsley. Continue until mixed and starting to hold together. (If you need more moisture, add ice water just a Tablespoon at a time.)

4) Using your hands, press the dough together and remove to a lightly floured board. Knead for only about 5-6 times. Roll dough out to about 1/4 inch thick. Cut into long pieces, about 1 inch by 2 inches or your preference. Hold until you add them to the Chicken broth.

Check out all these fun Music and Food posts from my Lets Lunch buddies around the world:

Cowgirl Chef's Tiger Cakes (and a really sexy song)

Monday Morning Cooking Club (Hawaiian treat)

HotCurries and Cold Beer - (tribute to her dad with a song)

Burnt Out Baker - (rock and roll in the house)

GeoFooding - (a very fun video about One Meatball)

Grongar Blog (You can Polka while the Kishke bakes )

More to be added - check back often :D

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Little Nutella Filled Cookie Pie

A cookie, that's a pie, that fits in your hand and is filled with Nutella?
Now, that's dangerous.

This is my newest offering for this year's World Nutella Day that happens every year on February 5th. Recipe lovers all over the world share a favorite idea using Nutella and contribute to my growing collection (and waist line.)

This itty-bitty pie is so simple to make and the cookie crumble on the top is the same as the pie shell, so no extra time is needed there either.
If you prefer, you can make these bigger for a perfect individual dessert or keep them mini for the perfect lunch pack surprise or party pleaser.The crust is a sugar cookie recipe that is my GO-TO because it's easy, but also makes a great blank slate to add your own flavor ideas or topping creations.

See more Nutella recipe ideas at World Nutella Day (created by and

Recipe: Nutella Filled Cookie Pies

Sugar Cookie Crust and Crumble~

3 cups AP Flour
2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Salt
8 ounces Butter (room temperature)
1 cup Sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons Vanilla
*optional - finely chopped candied orange peel

1) In a mixing bowl, beat the sugar and butter.

2) Add the egg and vanilla, beat until batter is smooth, about 2 minutes.

3) Mix together the Flour, baking powder and salt, then add this to the butter batter. (If using candied orange peel, add now.)

4) When mixed well, wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for about 20 minutes (up to overnight.)

Nutella Filled Cookie Pies:

1) Roll out cookie dough to about 1/4 inch. Cut into circles a little bigger than the opening in your mini muffin pan.
Gently press the cutouts into the muffin tin to form a crust. Save the leftover pieces of cookie dough for the crumble on top.*You can also pinch off pieces of the dough and roll into balls about 1 inch in diameter to press into the muffin tins to make a crust.2) Gather up the dough scraps and roll them in your fingers to use as crumble. The pieces should be about the size of peas or smaller.3) Drop about a teaspoon of Nutella into each cookie pie shell, top with cookie dough crumble (you can also add a few grains of Sea Salt.)4) Bake in a preheated 350F oven for about 8-10 minutes. Don't over cook because the Nutella will get too firm. Allow to cool for a few moments and then carefully remove cookie pies to cool on a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. These held well in an air tight container for a few days.

Happy World Nutella Day and every day~

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Party Favorites By Request ~

Here's a collection of Party foods fit for a Super Bowl day, Entertaining pals, or the answer to that dreaded question, "What can YOU bring?"

These recipes are posted on the ShowFood Chef site already, and you can click on the link below the picture to get to them. One of my readers wrote and asked if I have a compilation or a list of suggestions for her Super Bowl "excuse to eat and drink with friends" Sunday. It was a great idea, but I didn't have a particular list set up. Now I do. Go Team!

I love when my readers make request and I'll try to accommodate, so talk to me, peeps. You are all winners in my world.