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Posts Tagged ‘comfort food’

Baking isn’t a sure thing. I’ve heard it’s a science but since I’m not an exact measurer and English was my best subject, my talents lie more in unpretentious, candid culinary storytelling and sharing goods from my kitchen when they turn out to be delicious.

Enter banana bread. Other than the rare few who don’t like anything baked with brown bananas, people will generally accept the offering of a fat slice of tender chocolate chip banana bread.

chocolate chip banana bread

If you’re on the baking end, banana bread recipes are typically easy-going and tolerant of even the most novice bakers. But somehow I found a way to bake a deep, doughy sinkhole in my most recent loaf. The problem wasn’t the recipe.

chocolate chip banana bread

I tried to be too fancy by placing thin slices of bananas down the center of the loaf before sliding it into the oven. Why? Because one of my favorite muffins, banana chocolate chip, from Kowalski’s Markets has a few crunchy bananas baked on top and I wanted it to be like that. But I think the mushy rows of bananas on top wouldn’t really bake—I even turned the broiler on at the end! I finally had to take the bread out of the oven because the top was getting too brown.

I think I tried doing this once with banana chips but I can’t remember how it turned out. Maybe I need to wait until the bread is half or three-quarters baked and then toss banana chips on top. Or perhaps a baker from Kowalski’s Markets will tell me their secret.

chocolate chip banana bread

To top off my fiasco, I was planning to share the bread with my sisters that day so I needed it to cool down quickly. After the bread cooled for an hour or so, I stuck it in the fridge and next thing I know, there was a cavernous sinkhole down the center. The upside of this story is that this recipe is a keeper (if you don’t add mushy banana slices to the top). It is magnificently tender and chocolatey.

I only slightly adapted the recipe from one of my go-to recipe and entertaining blogs Reluctant Entertainer. My additions to Sandy’s Sour Cream Banana Bread include a cup of mini semi-sweet chocolate chips, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of cardamom, and using white and brown sugar.

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

2 large eggs, beaten

1 cup mashed overripe (brown or spotted) bananas, about 3 bananas

1/2 cup sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla

1-1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon cardamom

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

  1. Heat oven to 350° and grease a 9-inch loaf pan or line with parchment paper.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and sugars on medium-high speed until fluffy (about 4 minutes).
  3. Beat in eggs.
  4. Stir in bananas, sour cream, and vanilla. Beat on medium-low until incorporated.
  5. In a separate medium bowl stir together flour, cinnamon, cardamom, soda, and salt.
  6. Gradually and slowly beat in the flour mixture in three batches, scraping down the sides of the bowl between each, but be gentle—overbeating the batter will create a tough banana bread. It’s fine to see some flecks of flour still.
  7. Fold in chocolate chips.
  8. Bake at 350° for 50-55 minutes or until toothpick or cake tester comes out clean (or with only melted chocolate).
  9. Cool 15 minutes then remove from pan and cool on wire rack. Store at room temperature in airtight container up to four days.

Sweet, sinking wishes,

Staci

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Like speed limits, recipes are merely suggestions for when normal conditions exist. But who defines normal conditions? Maybe you never have a box of Chex cereal (or three) in your cupboard when you have the hankering to make traditional Chex™ Muddy Buddies™ so you have to think outside the box. Why not make puppy chow, also known as people chow, with the traditional peanut butter, chocolate chips, and powdered sugar but use your favorite cereals?

people chow puppy chow

In my most recent batch, I folded in Golden Grahams, Corn Pops, and Corn Chex cereals for an even tastier version of puppy chow. I planned to toss in chow mein noodles but I forgot to add them. Did you know that if you store puppy chow in an airtight container in the refrigerator it stays crunchy longer?

hodgepodge people puppy chow

You might also like Corn Pops Clusters

Corn Pops Clusters

If you have a box of Golden Grahams cereal, reserve four cups to make what will become a fight-over-the-last-piece family favorite: Marshmallow Creme Crunchy Graham Brownies.

marshmallow creme crunchy graham brownies square

Of course there’s always a special version of Chex Mix Like You Mean It.

Staci's version of Chex mix

Hodgepodge Puppy Chow with Corn Pops, Golden Grahams, Chex, and Chow Mein Noodles

9 cups of a combination of your favorite cereals and maybe chow mein noodles

1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

1/4 cup unsalted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

1½ cups powdered sugar

  1. Put all the cereal in a large bowl.
  2. In a saucepan over medium-low heat melt chocolate chips, peanut butter, and butter together. Stir until melted and creamy. Remove from heat.
  3. Stir in vanilla.
  4. Pour chocolate mixture over cereal and toss until all the cereal is drenched in chocolate.
  5. Using a 2 or 2.5 gallon plastic zipper bag, dump in 1/2 cup powdered sugar, chocolate coated cereal, and top with remaining 1 cup powdered sugar. Seal bag and shake it like a Boggle game until everything is coated with powdered sugar (everything in the bag, not your kitchen).
  6. Spread the cereal mixture onto a sheet of wax paper until cooled.
  7. Store in airtight container in the refrigerator.

May your recipes feel like suggestions,

Staci

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There’s a border battle between two Minnesota housewives and for that reason, I am sworn to secrecy and cannot share my sister’s super-secret-better-than-everyone-else’s Special K bar recipe.

For years, Heidi has been knocking the socks off family and friends with her secret Special K bars. But there’s this one housewife [Lincoln County Housewife] who is unkind (like cyber-bullying unkind) to my sister but that lady’s husband and sons (who are nice and friends of the family) love Heidi’s bars. So she bakes them for the guys but won’t share the recipe with anyone but her sisters. Ah, sweet revenge.

Special K bars

When I told Heidi I was writing this post and assured her that I would not share her secret recipe, she told me a few interesting facts about what happens when she makes a pan (or two) of her famous Special K Bars. [I didn’t use the guys’ names.]

Heidi: When I make these for them, there are rules. They are rationed between each other.

Me: LOL, what? Between Lincoln County Husband and Sons?

Heidi: I don’t really know, but it is wild hog code of rules about who gets bars, when they get bars, what size bars each get. I stay clear!

Me: Oh it’s wild hog rules amongst themselves – they’re not your rules? Is that more than just Lincoln Co. Husband and his boys? Or is it Pipestone Co. Husband and the other guys too? You just toss them a pan and run??

Heidi: Yes. It’s (Male), (Male), (Male), (Male), (Male), (Male), (Male) and (Male).

And the chivalrous “ladies first” rule does not apply.

It gets even better. 

Here’s an excerpt from a message from Lincoln Co. Housewife to my sister:

“Made my husband more bars, huh…I’d like to know what obsession you have about making bars for my men in my family…” blah, blah, blah something about the “fatning” bars… (her spelling not mine) “[Lincoln Co. Husband] told me today that he told you to stop making him bars…you better listen to him…”

Me to Heidi: Did he tell you to stop?

Heidi: Hell no!

Who knew a pan of bars could create such turmoil? We will forever refer to her secret recipe as Special K-iss My Ass Bars.

Special K Bars

(A standard, non revolution provoking recipe)

1 cup light corn syrup

1 cup white sugar

1 cup creamy peanut butter

6 cups Special K cereal (or corn flake cereal)

1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

1 cup butterscotch chips

In a large saucepan over medium heat bring corn syrup and sugar to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter until smooth. Fold in cereal. Press into a buttered or parchment paper-lined 8 x 11½ or 9×13 cake pan.

In a small saucepan melt chocolate and butterscotch chips over low heat, stirring constantly. Once smooth, pour over bars and spread evenly. Cool completely before cutting.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Come back later this week for: 3 piggies in a breakfast pie.

Super secret sweet wishes,

Staci

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Skip those individual, itty-bitty bags of Doritos and buy the bag with enough packaging air to inflate a bike tire. Here’s another ex-in-law recipe—it’s like hockey rink concession stand season in a casserole, minus the hockey stink drifting down the hallway!

The only changes I’ve made to this dish over the years is adding onion to the ground beef, a layer of taco sauce or salsa to juice it up a bit, and a smidge more sour cream and cottage cheese.

taco in a bag casserole

Here’s two more family favorite, ex-in-law recipes that lasted longer than my marriage: broccoli ranch salad and homemade Snickers bars.

Walking taco casserole (AKA Mexican hot dish from my ex-in-law Sue)

(Serves 8. You can easily cut this recipe in half.)

Medium or family size bag of nacho cheese flavored chips

2 pounds ground beef or sirloin

1/4 cup diced onion

2 packages taco seasoning

1 (16 ounce) sour cream

1 (24 ounce) cottage cheese

1 cup salsa or taco sauce

2 cups grated cheddar cheese

Toppings of choice like shredded lettuce, black olives, sour cream, shredded cheese, taco sauce, tomatoes, etc.

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Butter a 13×9 pan or similar size casserole dish.
  3. Brown hamburger with diced onion until cooked thoroughly. Add taco seasoning and cook according to package directions.
  4. In a bowl, combine sour cream and cottage cheese.
  5. Crush a few handfuls of nacho cheese chips into the bottom of the casserole dish. Layer crushed chips, 1/2 the meat mixture, 1/2 the salsa or taco sauce, 1/2 the sour cream mixture, and 1/2 the grated cheese into the buttered dish. Repeat layers and top with more crushed chips.
  6. Bake uncovered at 350° for 30-35 minutes.
  7. Garnish each serving with toppings of choice.
  8. Refrigerate leftovers.

This reminds me of a joke my kids (DO NOT) love when I tell: “What do you call cheese that’s not yours? Nach-o cheese!”

Cheesy wishes,

Staci

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There is no better fall smell than filling your home with the comforting scent of spicy pumpkin, especially when the cozy aroma wafts from your oven, not a candle or an outlet. Before your house smells like turkey and scorched potatoes, start your Thanksgiving festivities with pumpkin streusel coffee cake.

A few years ago I baked this cake to celebrate a coworker’s birthday. After I got strange looks from people that morning, I found out I was supposed to have brought treats the day before; but once we sliced into the soft, warm-in-the-middle cake, they quickly forgave me. See, look at those beautiful, forgiving smiles.

The recipe is from VeryBestBaking.com., a website on which I have a recipe box overflowing with homestyle goodness. But here’s what sends it over the top — instead of using plain nuts in the streusel, I tossed in Praline Pumpkin Seed Crunch from King Arthur Flour. I don’t think they sell it anymore, but you could use any praline nuts like pecans or cashews and crush them up.

Cozy cake wishes,
Staci 

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Since you continued reading even after seeing the title, I appreciate your sense of humor. Last week my sister and I decided we need a puking emoji (we suppose there’s one out there but it didn’t come loaded on our iPhones) and we would also like to see a new Facebook relationship status titled “married but he’s cheating on me.” We are confident it would be a commonly used selection. To be fair, if Facebook would like to make a “married but she’s cheating on me” status, we don’t discriminate.

On the sweeter side of the week, I made pumpkin chocolate chip cookies in a pan and Paula Deen’s Georgia toffee.

Georgia Toffee

Georgia Toffee

(from my all-time favorite Paula Deen’s Chocolate Celebration special 2008 issue)

13 graham cracker sheets

1 cup butter

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (I like to use the mini chips)

1 cup chopped pecans (I use pecan cookie pieces)

Preheat oven to 425˚. Line a 10×15-inch jelly-roll pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Spray foil with nonstick cooking spray.

Place graham cracker sheets evenly over foil, breaking crackers apart as necessary to cover bottom of pan; set aside.

In a medium saucepan, combine butter and brown sugar. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; boil for 2 minutes.

Remove from heat; stir in condensed milk. Immediately pour evenly over crackers. Sprinkle evenly with chocolate chips and pecans. Bake for 12 minutes. Let cool completely before cutting.

pumpkin chocolate chip cookie bars

The pumpkin bars are made using my son’s favorite soft pumpkin chocolate chip cookies recipe.

Pumpkin Chip Cookie Bars

1 1/2 cups butter, softened (3 sticks)

2 cups brown sugar

1 cup sugar

1 can (15 oz) solid-pack pumpkin

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups quick-cooking oats

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (this is my own addition)

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups (12 oz) chocolate chips

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars. Beat in the egg, pumpkin and vanilla. Combine the flour, oats, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; gradually add to creamed mixture. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Spread batter in a greased 15×10-inch jelly roll/bar pan. Bake at 350° for 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely before cutting into bars.

These cookies are also quite fabulous as sandwiches with marshmallow maple cream.

I’ve got a classier post for you next time.

Sweet & sarcastic wishes,
Staci

 

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It’s not just that a giant skillet cookie takes less prep time than baking a few dozen cookies, there’s something cozier than a childhood teddy bear about scraping your fork across the bottom of a cast iron skillet, digging out a messy, melty triangle of chocolate chip cookie.

skillet chocolate chip cookie

Get my new favorite Skillet Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe from Lori Lange at RecipeGirl.com. (In addition to the chocolate chips, if I have one on hand, I chop up a Hershey’s candy bar and toss it in.)

Lori’s cookbook, “The Recipe Girl Cookbook: Dishing Out the Best Recipes for Entertaining and Everyday” is always near the top of my pile. It’s because of her recipes for cinnamon roll pancakes, tomato-basil soup with garlic-cheese croutons, slow cooker french dip sandwiches with peppers and caramelized onions, blueberry-pineapple tequila punch, bacon-wrapped tater tots, triple berry salad with sugared almonds, roasted cauliflower with lemon-brown butter, pan-fried lemon-garlic rib eye steaks, and butterfinger brownies that you will love her book too.

I better go tell the rest of the family the cookie is ready to eat.

Sweet skillet wishes,
Staci

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