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Archive for November, 2010

Banana Bread

Banana BreadTHE VERDICT:

I know that banana bread isn’t generally that exciting. After all, you can find it in every coffee shop in the city, usually next to the ubiquitous slabs of lemon loaf. But banana bread is a great way to use up overripe bananas, and this batch of bread turned out so well (see perfect golden-brown specimen to the left) that I was inspired to share my recipe for this easy breakfast staple.

When preparing this recipe, don’t worry about getting the amount of banana exact. It will taste fine if you have a little less than a cup of banana and extra banana will only make the bread moister and more flavourful. You can also divide the mixture into muffin cups for banana muffins instead of banana bread—just watch them more carefully, the baking time is a little shorter for muffins.

A loaf will last two adults about 3-4 days depending on how thickly you slice it.

If you want to try it yourself…

THE RECIPE:

Banana Bread (source: my mom–who know where she got it from?)

3/4 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 3/4 cups flour

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 cup oil

1 cup mashed banana (1-2 very ripe bananas)

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

  • In a bowl: combine salt, flour, baking powder and baking soda.
  • In another bowl: combine sugar, oil and eggs. Beat vigorously until frothy. Add banana and blend thoroughly.
  • Fold into flour mixture until blended.
  • Pour into a greased bread pan.
  • Bake at 325°F for 1 hour until the crust is brown.
  • Remove pan to rack. Let stand 10 minutes. Invert pan.
  • Cut into slices.

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Old-Fashioned Beef & Root Vegetable Stew

Beef StewTHE VERDICT:
Winter weather calls for hearty, comfort foods like this delicious stew. What is even better on a cold winter’s night is to come in from the rain (or snow) to the smell of your dinner ready and waiting for you. What better way to warm up and relax after a long, hard day than to be able to sit down to a steamy bowl of stew without having to do any cooking.

One thing that is nice about this stew is that it can be prepped in a fairly short amount of time (other slow cooker recipes have so many preparation steps that they hardly feel like time savers at all). Brown the meat, chop the veggies, throw it all in the pot and go. You can do this the night before and keep everything in your fridge over night if you are crunched for time in the morning.

Everyone in our house loved this stew. It’s a total classic and will definitely feature prominently in our winter slow cooker rotation. It goes great with crusty sourdough rolls for dipping.

The meat gets so tender from the slow cooking process that it is perfect toddler food as long as all the pieces are cut into reasonable sized chunks. It’s a little messy as finger food, but it is possible for your little one to feed this to himself…just make sure bath time is just around the corner. Otherwise use a spoon.

Leftovers of this stew reheat and/or freeze well.

If you want to try it yourself…

THE RECIPE:

Beef and Root Vegetable Stew (source: Canadian Living Slow Cooker Collection)

2 lbs. stew beef cubes

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1 tbsp vegetable oil

2 each onions, carrots and parsnips, peeled and cubed

2 potatoes, peeled and cubed

1 cup peeled rutabaga

3 cups beef broth

2 bay leaves

2 tsp dried marjoram or thyme

3/4 tsp each salt and pepper

2 cups frozen chopped green beans or peas

  • Trim beef and cut into 1-inch cubes, if necessary. In large bowl, toss beef with 1/4 cup of the flour. In large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat; brown beef. Transfer to slow cooker.
  • Add 1/2 cup water to skillet; bring to boil, scraping brown bits from bottom of skillet. Scrape into slow cooker along with onions, carrots, parsnips, potatoes and rutabaga. Stir in broth, bay leaves, marjoram, salt and pepper.
  • Cover and cook on low until beef and vegetables are tender, about 7 to 8 hours. Skim off any fat. Move meat and vegetables to 1 side of slow cooker.
  • Whisk remaining flour with 1/3 cup water; whisk into liquid in slow cooker. Stir in beans or peas.
  • Cover; cook on high until thickened and steaming hot, about 15 minutes. Discard bay leaves.

Makes 8-10 servings. Requires a 5-6 L slow cooker.

Note: When a stew contains sweet vegetables like carrots and parsnips, it may need a splash of lemon juice, cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar to balance the flavours. Taste before you serve and decide.

Per serving: 256 calories; 23 g protein; 8 g total fat (3 g saturated fat); 22 g carbs; 3 g fibre; 44 mg cholesterol; 480 mg sodium

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Mulled Apple Cider

ciderTHE VERDICT:

I found this recipe years ago in some magazine long forgotten and instantly fell in love with its spicy warmth. But it wasn’t until Justin and I shared our first Christmas together that it became an integral recipe in our collection. On that first Christmas, as we blended the traditions of our two families together, we did so over a steaming mug of cider. Mulled apple cider on Christmas morning became the first Christmas tradition we started together, and it is something we look forward to sharing with Zayden this year.

This recipe is very quick to throw together, but tastes best if you get quality apple juice (we recommend Santa Cruz) instead of a juice made from concentrate. You don’t have to wait until Christmas to enjoy it either; it makes a wonderful warm-up on any chilly winter evening. It is a great non-alcoholic beverage option for your holiday party and has always gone over very well at our holiday get-togethers. It’s also a great alternative to hot chocolate after a caroling party or ski trip.

If you want to try it yourself…

THE RECIPE:

Mulled Apple Cider (source: a magazine of yore)

8 cups apple juice

1 red-skinned apple, sliced

3 sticks cinnamon

6 whole cloves

1 strip orange rind

  • Combine ingredients in a large stock pot.
  • Cook over medium-low heat and simmer gently until spices have infused, about 30 minutes
  • Strain into mugs.

Serves 8

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Vegetable Beef & Rice Soup

Beef SoupTHE VERDICT:
I was a little skeptical when we decided to make this soup. I’m not the biggest fan of ground meat in soup. Chili I can do. Stew I can do. But soup, not so much. I am so glad I didn’t listen to my gut. This soup is AMAZING! There is no way to effectively describe just how good it is in words, so I will just have to insist that you try it yourself.

It is easy to prepare. All you need to do is brown the meat, chop and sauté the veggies and throw it all in a slow cooker and let it cook while you’re at work or out running errands. It’s a great soup for hardworking families and busy days. While the recipe asks you to add frozen peas and lemon juice at the end of the cooking process, we have forgotten this step both times that we have made this soup and it still tastes great. In fact, it tastes so good, we will probably never try it with lemon juice and peas—why mess with a good thing?

Our little soup loving boy was all over this soup the first time we made it. The second time he wasn’t thrilled with the ground beef (guess he takes after me), but toddlers are finicky and unpredictable when it comes to food, so we’ll say he gave it one thumb up instead of two.

Leftovers of this soup reheat well. It’s so good there probably won’t be anything left to freeze.

If you want to try it yourself…

THE RECIPE:

Vegetable Beef & Rice Soup (source: Canadian Living Slow Cooker Collection)

8 oz. lean ground beef

2 large carrots, diced

1 large onion, chopped

2 stalks celery, diced

Half sweet red pepper, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp crumbled dried rosemary

1/2 tsp. salt and pepper

6 cups beef broth

2/3 cup parboiled whole grain rice

1 cup frozen peas

1 tbsp lemon juice

  • In large skillet, sauté beef over medium-high heat, breaking up with fork until crumbly and no longer pink, about 8 minutes. With slotted spoon transfer beef to slow cooker.
  • Drain fat from skillet. Fry carrots, onion, celery, red pepper, garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is softened, about 6 minutes. Scrape into slow cooker.
  • Add 1/2 cup of the broth to skillet; bring to a boil, scraping up brown bits from bottom of skillet. Scrape into slow cooker along with remaining broth, 2 cups water and rice. Stir to combine.
  • Cover and cook on low until vegetables are tender, about 5 hours.
  • Stir in peas and lemon juice. Cover and cook on high until steaming hot, about 15 minutes.

Makes 8-10 servings in a 4-6 L slow cooker.

Per serving: 129 calories, 8 g protein, 4 g total fat (1 g saturated fat); 16 g carbs; 2 g fibre; 13 mg cholesterol; 629 mg sodium

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