Tag Archives: cooking

Banana Bread French Toast

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Last time we were in Bakersfield, we were at our favorite breakfast place and I was trying to figure out what to order the kids that they would eat. They were hopped up on treats from Grandma and being extra picky. I saw Banana Bread French Toast on the menu and decided that would probably work.

The kids ate every bite. This was of course because it wasn’t really French Toast. Big cubes of warm banana bread drizzled with syrup and dusted with powdered sugar would probably get any kid to eat. It wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for.

But I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the concept since.

So last night I made the banana bread and this morning I turned it into bona fide egg-dipped French toast. And the kids still ate this version too.

For the Banana Bread
•3 mashed bananas
•3/4 cup sugar
•1 1/2 cup flour
•2 tsp baking powder
•1/4 tsp salt
•4oz cream cheese, softened
•1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
•1 egg

Preheat oven to 350.

Combine ingredients. Pour into prepared loaf pan. Bake 55-60 min.

Let cool, slice.

For the French Toast
•3 eggs, beaten with a splash of milk
•Banana Bread slices
•butter for frying
•sliced almonds and powdered sugar to garnish, optional

Dip the slices in the egg mixture quickly and transfer to hot pan or griddle prepared with butter. Fry on each side until golden. Remove from pan, garnish with almonds and/or powdered sugar and serve.

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Fig and prosciutto three cheese pizza

If you are feeling a little adventurous, I highly recommend this pizza. It might seem a little bit of a strange combination, but it is totally delicious.

My inspiration actually came from a conversation I heard between two checkers at Whole Foods the other day. One said someone checked out in his line with a fig pizza and he thought it was weird. At first I did too.

Then I couldn’t get the idea out of my head. So I started trying to think of what a fig pizza would likely have on it and what tastes good with figs.

When I think of figs I think of fancy cheese platters and prosciutto. So I built on that for my pizza.

Ingredients:
-prosciutto
-grated asiago cheese
-grated Parmesan cheese
-marinated mozzarella, sliced
-figs, sliced
-favorite pizza dough
-favorite pizza base (I actually used some tomato soup because I just made it the night before and couldn’t find pizza sauce at the grocery store, an olive oil garlic herb rub would also be good I think)

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Shape dough, apply base. Place sliced mozzarella over surface of dough. Next, layer fig slices and shreds of prosciutto. Sprinkle grated cheeses over the top. Bake as you would a typical pizza or according to your dough’s instructions.

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Enjoy!

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Apple pancakes

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I was trying to make this apple stuffed pancake recipe that was described on a couple different blogs I found, but when the technique proved too difficult for me, I decided to go another direction.

These are kind of a cross between traditional pancakes and hash browns. I don’t really have a recipe for them to share, but I can describe what I did.

I started out with a basic pancake batter recipe. In my case, I used Jamie Oliver’s one cup pancakes. Then I added grated apples, rolled oats, very thinly sliced almonds and sunflower seeds until the batter was just holding everything together. I spooned it out on the heated pan prepared with butter and flattened with the back of the spoon into a pancake shape. Once browned on one side I flipped it and browned the other side.

They’re pretty hearty with some crunch and lots of texture.

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Edited to add: I guess I was in a bit of a rush to share this recipe. I’ve made these enough times now that I’ve perfected the ingredient amounts. Hope this helps and is a little more specific than my vague instructions above.

-1 cup flour (I am currently using a multigrain mix of whole wheat and leftovers from our gluten-free days, use whatever you have)
-1 tsp baking powder
-1/2 tsp baking soda
-1 egg
-3/4 cup milk
-2 tbsp maple syrup
-couple dashes of cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice (optional)
-1 or 2 (depends on the size) firm apples or Asian pears
-1/4 cup sunflower seeds
-1/4 cup thinly sliced almonds

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Fun times

Wednesday was my 28th birthday. First thing I thought when I woke up? I have to call Andrea and see what she’s doing. She had hinted at going to an aquarium a few days before and that sounded like fun to me.

I found out she was indeed headed to The Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach that morning with her boy, so I asked if we could crash her party. So much fun! This was a really great aquarium and the admission price can’t be beat.

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Our kids were glued to these tanks. So much to see!

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Sea horses!

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Bean is shaking her buns at the shark tank and singing, “Come and bite me, come and bite me, come and bite me now!” I don’t know where she comes up with this stuff.

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The jellies are always fun to look at.

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A King Crab. Bean kept calling all the crabs sea spiders.

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The kids didn’t really like the idea of being stuck in their strollers.

Our weekend also wound up being pretty packed. Started off with some morning snuggles for Bean and Sparrow which is part of our morning routine most days.

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Then our older kids had haircuts with our favorite stylist.

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And then I made sauce. My grandma’s recipe, but totally from scratch (all raw and fresh, organic ingredients) and I left out all the meat.

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The next day we decided to be a little spontaneous after church. So we drove north on the 101. We stopped off in Santa Maria first so that the newest cousins could meet.

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Just a couple months apart, we are sure these boys are going to have many adventures and times of mischief together when the family gathers, just like Stephen and Jon (his dad) did growing up.

And here are five of the seven Wuertz great grandchildren:

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After our visit we headed just a little further north to partake in our favorite clam chowder as a belated celebration for my birthday.

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And a short walk around town before heading back home.

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And we’ll just end there on a positive note because the five hour epic car torture session does not need to be relived.

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I like Jamie

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“Ok, well I have my menu all planned out for the week, so we need to go upstairs and get ready for preschool.”

“I want to make my menu too.”

“What do you want on your menu?”

Pointing to Jamie Oliver: “A guy.”

“A guy?”

“Yeah, who is making this dinner, Mama?”

“His name is Jamie Oliver.”

“Yeah, I like Jamie.”

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Banana Nut Oatmeal

When I was growing up, as a quick breakfast for us girls, my parents often bought the instant oatmeal flavor variety pack. Cinnamon raisin and brown sugar were usually the first flavors gone followed by plain which we would doctor up with a ton of additions and then the banana nut/banana bread (depending on which company you bought it from), would sit and sit and sit. Nobody liked that flavor. I don’t know about my sisters, but for me it was the fake banana taste. I still hate that taste. I used to think I hated bananas because I hated banana flavor.

Anyway, the last few times I’ve had some overripe bananas I’ve made this much more natural (and way better tasting) version of those instant oatmeal flavor packs.

Ingredients:
-1 over-ripe banana
-1 cup rolled oats
-2 cups water
-1 or two handfuls chopped nuts (I used almonds and hazelnuts)
-1 handful of raisins or dried fruit (optional, I like the golden raisin and berry blend from TJs)
-couple large spoonfuls of yogurt
-couple dashes of cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice
-1 tsp brown sugar
-squirt of honey

Place oats, nuts, honey, cinnamon, sugar and water in a small saucepan and heat over medium low, stirring occasionally until water is absorbed into oats.

Meanwhile mash your banana in a medium bowl. Add in the yogurt and dried fruit. When the oatmeal mixture is ready stir that in too.

Top with fresh fruit, if desired.

Enjoy.

If you really want to splurge and make it sinful, add in a spoonful of Nutella. Just do it when the kids aren’t looking.

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Food journey and values update

A little over a year ago, I did a three part series here on the blog about the role food played in my life growing up and the changes I had made over the years to the way we ate based on books and research I had read.

Part 1: Childhood

Part 2: Teens and Young-Adulthood

Part 3: Up to the then present

I think I felt kind of confident at the time that where we were at was a good place and I didn’t foresee any more major changes in the future. I felt pretty educated about the subject. I was also just kind of “done” on the subject of food research. It can be exhausting looking into all of the information and following rabbit trails. I knew what I knew and I was good with what I knew. I trusted some places and brands over others. I felt I was doing my best with the knowledge, budget, family support, etc. that I had.

Well, a year makes a difference. News stories are written. New books are recommended and written. Things get more complicated. Husbands read books of their own. And blissful ignorance isn’t good enough anymore at some point.

So I sort of feel like now this will be an ever changing and expanding storyline in my life. As I find out more things my values are going to change. There is a Maya Angelou quote, “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”

So, enough changes have taken place recently in our diet and lives that I have more to share.

The biggest impact on our lives was that Stephen read The Omnivore’s Dilema by Michael Pollan and I read Eating Animals by Jonathan Saffron Foer.

There have also been numerous articles in various publications over the last year about the FDA, USDA, our country’s food system, farming, pesticides, conglomerates like Monsanto, etc. that have caught our attention and made us think.

In some ways, writing about this seems especially hard because we still don’t have it all figured out. I also don’t want to offend people or make them think that what they are doing isn’t good enough because it is a subject I can get pretty fired up about. Nor do I want to offend those we eat with in our circle of friends and family that may not either share our same values or for whatever reason can’t make the changes that we have made due to their budget or dietary needs, etc. So forgive me if I ramble or don’t seem to have it all together quite yet.

So a year ago we got our dairy, meat and eggs from Trader Joe’s. We joined back up with the CSA Abundant Harvest for our produce. We still ate out at places that were above McDonald’s, but didn’t claim to source their ingredients from organic farms or even any place different than where ever it is that McDonald’s sources their ingredients from. We ate processed food from time to time (snacks mostly), but I did try/have to make a lot of things from scratch due to the kids’ food allergies. We avoided soy (except occasionally in the fermented form of soy sauce) due to things I’d read about phytoestrogens in soy products. We avoided non-traditional fats/oils and instead used mostly real butter and olive oil. We sometimes splurged for grass fed beef, but I had a hard time learning how to cook it and it was expensive so we mostly just got whatever was on sale and marked “organic” at Trader Joe’s. We trusted Trader Joe’s. We trusted labels like “organic” and “free range.” We made little effort beyond the more “superior” grocery stores like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods to find out where our food came from.

And that last line is where all the change comes into our lives. After reading the books we did, neither of us could be comfortable ever again just walking into a grocery store and blindly trusting. We wanted to know.

Google searches led to reports and news articles and farm websites that told us (or went to great efforts to keep secret) where our food was coming from and we didn’t like everything that we found out.

Labels like organic now mean nothing to us if the cows/chickens/hogs are fed the same “organic” non-traditional diet (in other words “organic” corn and soy) as their non-organic counterparts. Or if they are kept in identical claustrophobic factory conditions with a small door where they are allowed to access outdoors, but don’t because they are too sick/obese/etc to be able to do so.

We started eating way less meat/eggs/dairy. We only get meat/eggs/dairy from places that we can find more about and trust that the animals are treated decently, given food they are traditionally supposed to eat and space/lifestyle/habitat/etc. that they are traditionally supposed to be in. Mostly that means we source these things either through our CSA via add-ons to our weekly box (I just discovered they have a whole series of videos about each of the farms), our local farmer’s markets and sometimes Whole Foods carries “local” stuff (an example is that I discovered the chicken our CSA sells from a family farm in Sanger, CA is available at Whole Foods and about $2-3 cheaper).

We have like three places we feel OK about eating out at. We are trying to figure how to eat when we are in social situations with people that don’t eat like us and for whom this is of no concern. It’s daunting sometimes. But I think it’s worth it. I think the changes we are making send a message and have an impact even if it is a fairly small one.

If you want to know more, feel free to comment and ask questions.

And one more thing… Chicken, people… Just Google “chicken fecal soup” and tell me you can be comfortable walking into any grocery store and buying a package of “organic” chicken again (hint, make sure your chicken package says 0% additional moisture, you are welcome).

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Asian inspired stone fruit chicken

It’s stone fruit season and our CSA is overflowing with it, as usual. We try to eat a lot of it raw, but I still have to freeze quite a bit, make cobblers, and try to find other uses.

I had 6 nectarines sitting in my fruit bowl and they were starting to get really fragrant so I knew they’d be getting near their end soon. Sure enough two down at the bottom were half moldy. I make this peach chicken recipe from a Betty Crocker cookbook that my husband loves. I don’t really love it, or at least I didn’t use to because it had canned peaches in it and I had a problem with the textures. At one point I came up with a more sophisticated version of the recipe, but I think it may be sitting in a Word document on my computer in the aftermath of one of my blog shut-down freak-outs.

So tonight for a little twist on that recipe, I decided to try an Asian-inspired, stone fruit version of orange chicken. As I put the plates down I said, “This could be really good or really bad. Complete experiment.” I have confidence issues. I think you could probably use peaches, nectarines or even plums. Anyway, it was good and blog worthy, so here goes…

Asian-inspired stone fruit chicken

Ingredients
-1 egg
-1/2 cup flour
-2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
-Chinese Five Spice powder
-sesame oil
-high temp tolerant oil for stir frying
-salt
-4 medium nectarines, skin and stone removed, chopped
-soy sauce
-white wine (I used some two buck Chuck I bought today and I didn’t even get carded, sad face)
-thumb size piece of ginger root, grated
-2 cloves garlic, pressed

In a low bowl, season egg with salt and a dash of Chinese Five Spice powder and then whisk to scramble. In another low bowl mix flour and 1 tsp of Chinese Five Spice powder. Coat each piece of chicken in the egg mixture and then in the flour mixture and put on a plate while you finish doing the whole batch.

In a wok add a half-dollar circle of your high temp oil and a dime circle of the sesame oil. Add half the grated ginger and pressed garlic. Heat over medium high heat until fragrant and then add chicken stir frying here and there to prevent burning.

Meanwhile, in a smaller pan or wok repeat the oil process with the rest of the ginger and garlic, over medium heat. Add in your nectarines (or fruit of your choice) a dash of Chinese Five Spice, a few glugs of wine and couple glugs soy sauce (sorry no exact measurements, I just pour what seems right) and simmer while stir frying your chicken. Sprinkle a little flour over the nectarine mixture and stir it in to help it thicken. When chicken is no longer pink inside, add the nectarine mixture to the chicken and stir fry a few seconds more.

Serve over steamed rice with a lightly steamed vegetable like green beans or asparagus.

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Lisa’s Gluten-Free All Purpose Flour Mix

When it comes to gluten-free baking everyone has an opinion about the right combination of flours because no one other grain seems to be able to mimic the elasticity, texture, flavor, etc. of wheat. The Internet is a really great resource for those with Celiac’s, wheat allergy or gluten intolerance. There are tons and tons of websites, blogs, gluten-free stores, cookbooks, and recipes to be found. And behind all of them is an opinion on this subject.

One baker will tell you that millet is a gluten-free bread baker’s dream. Another will say sorghum flour has a great texture. A lot of people are not fans of rice flour because of the grainy texture, which is funny because so many pre-made mixes are mostly made with rice flour (you’d think the makers of these mixes would listen, but I suspect it probably has more to do with the fact that rice is cheap). Certified gluten-free oat flour, I’ve heard numerous times, is the closest thing to wheat. Almond meal is perfect to bake with and produces the fluffiest baked goods. Some prefer to add things like flax seed meal or garbanzo bean flour to their mixes for extra protein and fiber (though just like eating regular garbanzo beans you might want to grab some Beano before enjoying a baked good that contains this flour). These are all things I’ve read on numerous websites and books dedicated to making the gluten-free life a little easier.

It has been nice having all these resources to go to since several family members have discovered varying levels of allergy and intolerance to wheat. Most recently my husband has gone gluten-free and about 6 weeks in now he is definitely noticing some benefits including the loss of 7lbs and a little pooch he’s never been able to get rid of (what some people refer to as “wheat belly”) no matter how hard he worked out or watched what he ate. I still have a stash of a few things I am holding onto and when we eat out I indulge, but for the most part our house is gluten-free now.

So the creative wheels have been turning. I needed a good mix of flours because one of the biggest obstacles, at least for me, to gluten-free baking is having to pull out several different bags of flours and pull a little from each bag. It takes up a lot of space on your counter and in your cupboards and it’s just annoying having to measure out that many ingredients.

The best stuff on the market that most people I know with wheat allergies use is probably Pamela’s mix. Unfortunately, it contains cultured buttermilk so Bean and Sprout can’t have anything that is made with it. I have had some seriously yummy treats baked with that stuff and so it is really a bummer that it won’t work for our family.

I decided today that I would take the opinions that I’ve read plus my own experience with gluten-free baking and try to come up with my very own all purpose mix that could be used as a cup for cup substitute in any recipe calling for flour that I tried. I am finally pretty happy with the result. No grainy textures, no bitter aftertaste, something that is somewhere between whole wheat and white in texture and taste, and a great elasticity in doughs and batter. So here it is, I am throwing my hat in the ring of gluten-free flour combo opinions:

Lisa’s Gluten Free All Purpose Flour Mix
-1 cup arrowroot starch/flour
-1 cup sorghum flour
-1 cup millet flour
-1 cup almond meal (I do like the blanched Bob’s Red Mill stuff better than the “Just Almond Meal” from TJ’s)
-1 cup oat flour
-1 cup potato starch
-1 cup sweet rice flour
-3 tbsp xanthan gum

Sift ingredients together (the almond meal and the oat flour had quite a few chunks, so this is important for a smooth end product) into a large bowl then use a wire whisk to combine thoroughly.

This made enough flour for a batch of muffins and a loaf of bread with some leftover. I made a second batch just before I put things away to keep in my big flour jar and have on hand for the next time I feel like baking. That way I can just take out the jar and measure out the amount of flour I need without a big production.


Gluten-free bread dough rising.


The finished loaf. I just found a simple bread recipe that used regular flour and substituted my flour mix.


Strawberry banana muffins using strawberries we got at the farmer’s market yesterday. Again, I just found a strawberry muffin recipe online and used my mix for the flour, a combo of hemp and coconut milk for the milk, and a banana instead of the egg it called for.

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Sausage, spinach, and artichokes

When we moved into our house in Bakersfield we got this little welcome package from the builder that included a copy of Food & Wine’s Best of the Best Vol. 9 which is basically a compilation of recipes from 25 cookbooks they thought were the best. One of the books featured is Tyler Florence’s Eat This Book . The way he describes every recipe makes you want to cook. It makes it seems so interesting and fun.

When trying to come up with a not so ordinary use for our CSA box artichokes I came across his recipe for Artichokes with Lemon Sausage and Sage (side note: who needs recipe books anymore when all the chef recipes are on the Food Network website?). This has become one of my favorite recipes so much so that I don’t even really have to look at the recipe to make it, but just in case I do, I even have the page number in the book that it is on memorized (that’s p. 97 for any of you who are curious).

I’ve also gotten comfortable enough with it to tweak it to our likes/dislikes and what we have available or need to use in our CSA box. Last week I made a version using my homemade chicken stock, CSA spinach and artichokes.

Ingredients
For the artichokes:
-1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley
-4 garlic cloves, pressed
-2 bay leaves
-1/4 cup white wine
-1/2 lemon cut into paper-thin slices
-salt and pepper to taste
-4 baby artichokes
-1 cup chicken stock

For the rest of the dish:
-olive oil
-1 package sweet Italian pork sausage
-1 bunch spinach, rinsed and chopped
-1/2 onion, diced
-2 cloves garlic, pressed
-1/2 lemon, cut into paper-thin slices
-1/2 cup chicken stock

Directions
Place parsley, garlic, bay leaves, wine, lemon slices, salt, pepper, and chicken stock in pot and bring to a boil. Rinse artichokes and trim them. Place artichokes in pot, cover and reduce heat to simmer for about 20 minutes.

Heat olive oil in pan and then add sausages. Cook until brown on both sides and done through. Remove sausages from pan and keep warm. Add more olive oil, onion and garlic and cook until onion is translucent. Stir in chicken stock, spinach and lemon slices. Add artichokes and sausage to the pan to warm and bring all the flavors together. Dish is ready when spinach is slightly wilted.

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