Food Hero

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread by Rachelle

submitted by rachelle

Here in Denmark, chocolate chips are a precious commodity. People ship them to us at high postage costs and carry them to us in suitcases. We reduce the amount we put into our cookies, and dole them out into pancakes just four chips per flapjack. When I mention putting chocolate chips into my famous orange-chocolate scones, the Brits in my cooking club look at me askance. Clearly, the love affair with the humble chocolate chip is a uniquely American phenomenon.

That being said, this Chocolate Chip Banana Bread recipe is my favorite thus far. It’s here straight from my favorite cooking magazing, Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food. I’ve included the baking time for muffins below. Have Yum!

1 c mashed banana (3 medium)
1/4c vegetable oil
1t orange zest (how to grate proper orange zest here)
1/2 t salt
1t baking soda
1 c sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2c all-purpose flour
1/2 c semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 c chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour a 6 cup loaf pan, or a 12 cup muffin tin. (If you use the muffin tin, you will have enough batter to do a 12 mini muffin tin as well.)

In a large bowl, mix bananas and wet ingredients. Add dry ingredients, stirring until just mixed. Add chocolate chips and walnuts.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean: 70-80 min for loaf, 20-25 min for muffin, 12-15 for mini muffins. If the loaf browns too quickly, cover loosely with tin foil. Cool loaf for 12-18 minutes in pan before turning out and cooling completely on a rack.

Tip: Banana bread is best with ‘fresh’ over-ripe bananas. But if you want, you can freeze your soft bananas for later and it will still be nice. Just peel the bananas and freeze them in batches of 3 or 4 in a ziploc freezer bag. To defrost, put the bag into a large bowl and allow them to melt. Pour off some of the accumulated liquid before using, or your batter might be too runny.


How to Organize Your Recipes by Rachelle
August 15, 2008, 9:00 pm
Filed under: Rachelle Mee-Chapman, Tips

Posted by: Rachelle

A few years back I read an article in Real Simpleabout how to organize your recipes. (I can’t find the original one on line, but they do offer 8(!) methods here.) I’d been trying different methods for sometime, and was thrilled at how well this system worked.

Shopping List
several three-ringed binders
plastic sheet protectors
binder dividers with tabs
glue stick
copy paper (you can used stuff that’s been printed on one side — reduce, reuse!)
recipe cards from grandma, aunties, and the sweet old ladies at church
favorite recipes from magazines
recipes printed from your Epicurious recipe box or other on line sources

Sort your recipes into broad categories. Then sort again into subcategories. (Don’t worry, you can easily shuffle them around again easily with this method.) These are the categories that work for my collection, I have a binder for:

Soups and Sides: veggie soups, meat soups, salads, sandwiches
Main Dishes: pasta (meat, veggie), beans, meat (beef, chicken, lamb, fish)
Baked Goodies: breakfast foods, sweet bread, yeast breads, cookies, pies/cakes/desserts
Special Occasions: fancy appetizers, cocktails, Christmas, Easter, Passover, Thanksgiving

-Recipe cards that have writing on both sides get taped inside the plastic protectors — I put four to a page.
-Recipe cards that are one sided can be mounted to paper first to make them easier to slide into plastic sheaths.
-Recipes from magazines get pasted onto paper and slid into protectors. I try to keep the pictures with them for inspiration. Sometimes I cut out the recipes themselves and glue them onto part of the picture.
-Recipes printed from on line sources are just slipped into the page protectors.

Now you can easily flip through all your recipes. Decide that a side dish works better as a main dish? Just move the page protector to the other binder. Real. Simple.

I’ve never quite gotten to this step, but the original article also suggested that you go through your cook books and make a list of your favorites with their page numbers, then put that list in the front of your binder.

I like tearing out magazine recipes and then tucking them into the binder pockets. Then a couple time a year on a lazy weekend, I go through them and put the ones I still want to keep into the binder.

Got and idea for organizing recipes? Have a favorite on-line recipe box? Do tell!

Pizza Night! by Rachelle
August 15, 2008, 6:00 am
Filed under: Italian, Main Dish, Medium Fix, Rachelle Mee-Chapman, Tips | Tags: , ,

Posted by: Rachelle

When we moved from Seattle to Copenhagen in grey, dark February, the kids needed a little something that tasted like home. That’s when we instituted Friday as pizza night. Making yeast dough initially intimidated me. But I found it was a lot easier than I thought, and I’ve included all my tips and tricks below. Start the dough about 1 1/2 hours before you want to eat (1 hr to rise, 1/2 hour to top and cook) and you’ll be golden.

With food prices rising back in the good old US of A, maybe it’s time to change your take-out habits? Two gourmet pizzas in Seattle would set up back at least $45…now we make it at home for about $20.  have Yum!

Shopping List
4 c flour
1 1/2 t salt
1/3 c olive oil
1 1/2 c warm tap water
2t sugar
2 pkgs fast-acting yeast (in the baking aisle)
jarred organic pizza sauce
various toppings (See suggestions from our readers below)

In a small bowl mix sugar, yeast and warm tap water with a fork. to activate the yeast your water should be wrist-warm but not scalding. The sugar ‘feeds’ the yeast and gets it rising faster and with more success. Set the mixture aside for 5-10 minutes. If the yeast is alive and kickin’ you’ll see a foam building on the surface. If not, try again.

In a large bowl mix flour and salt. Make a divet in the the flour and pour in the olive oil. Add the yeast mixture and stir with a wooden spoon. The dough starts to form a smooth-ish elastic ball. (Add flour a tablespoon or so at a time if it’s too sticky. It’s better to err on the slightly sticky side than on the dry side.) Turn out onto a floured surface and with floured hands knead for about 3-5 minutes.  (How to knead pizza dough here.)

Swipe the bowl you mixed in with a bit of olive oil on a paper towel. Plop the dough ball in there, then turn it over so both sides are lightly kissed with olive oil. Soak a thin dishtowel in warm water and wring it out. Cover the bowl with the dough and put it in a warm, draft-free location for about one hour. (In our old flat we proofed dough on the radiator, but here I put on a step stool in the bathroom with the dryer running! Any warmish spot should do.)

If you are using baking stones now is the time to put them in the oven at 425.

While you are waiting for the dough to rise, slice and dice all your ingredients. If you are using fresh mozzarella, put it in a sieve or colander over a bowl (to catch the water) and sprinkle lightly with salt. This keeps fresh mozzarella from ‘sweating’ on the pizza and making the dough salty. Here are some yummy combos to try from our Food Hero readers:

Three Peper, Three Cheese by Paula Clare: red, yellow, green bell peppers w/mitizhra, mozzerella, and parmesean
Tuscan Goodnes by Elaine Eppler: artichokes hearts, pine nuts, zucchini, black olives, sundried tomatoes, feta cheese, fresh basil

In 45min-1 hr your dough should be about twice it’s original size. Flour your hands and ‘punch’ it down to release the air. Turn it out on to the floured surface again and give it a little knead. Split it into three balls, set them on wax paper to keep them from sticking. Add a smallish hand full of cornmeal to the counter. put the ball of dough on the cornmeal/flour counter. Pat it down into a circle. Dust it with a little more flour. Using a rolling pen — or in a pinch, a clean empty glass jar – roll it out to about 1/4 inch thick, a little thicker on the edges if you like chewy crust. (For more how-to’s see the video link above)

If you’re not using baking stones, transfer your dough to a baking sheet. If you are using baking stones, get ’em out of the oven and put them on a trivet. Quickly slide the dough from the counter to the hot stone. This starts baking the pizza even before it’s in the oven and gives it that crisp-but-chewy texture. Add your toppings. Pop it in the oven and bake it for 20-25 minutes, keeping an eye on it and maybe moving it up if the top isn’t melting, or down if the bottom of the pizza isn’t browning. Let it set for a few minutes before slicing and your cheese won’t sliiiiiide off. Pour the kids some pop and yourself a microbrew. Have Yum!

Any tips or tricks for the perfect dough consistency? Got favorite topping combos to share? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

How To… by Rachelle
August 5, 2008, 9:56 am
Filed under: Tips | Tags: ,

Sometimes the smallest things can stop us from trying something new. Here are a few videos of basics for new cooks — or experienced ones! I just learned how to poach eggs, and I’ve been cooking for years! Have Yum!

How to Peel and Chop Garlic

How to Dice a Tomato

How to Poach an Egg

How to Make Perfect Scrambled Eggs

How to Boil an Egg

Some Thoughts About Ingredients by Rachelle
August 5, 2008, 9:38 am
Filed under: Tips, Uncategorized | Tags:

When making something simple like bruschetta, the important thing is to use good ingredients. You’ll need these to make Lazy Gourmet Bruschetta, but they are also good pantry basics to have on hand.

Fresh Garlic. Please, I beg you, abandon garlic powder. Buy whole garlic, or cheat a little and get a jar of the pre-chopped stuff. It’s usually in the produce section with the salad supplies. It makes food prep easier, and is nearly as nice as chopping it fresh.

Fresh Basil is essential for dishes like bruschetta, or to put on homemade pizza — or even to jazz up a pre-made deli pizza. You can grow in on your windowsill in a pot, or buy it fresh in small-to-large packages in the produce department.

Olive Oil can really range in price and quality. Get decent olive oil — not the most expensive, but not the cheapest either. It must be extra virgin. If you have the cheaper non-virgin stuff, use it in cooked foods where the flavor is not as prominent. For cold dishes use the good stuff.

Parmesan/Romano/Assagio. You are absolutely forbidden to use Parmesan ‘cheese’ in the green can. We are not eating in 1972 folks. Go buy a bag or carton of the pre-shredded stuff, or save some coin and get a triangular block and shred on a grater (fine or heavier depending on what you like) or shave it into thin slices with a sharp knife.