Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Banana Liqueur Cheesecake Bars

We had some bananas that were perfectly ripe and I had 2 bricks of cream cheese in the fridge for no particular reason, so I decided to do a cross between my Banana Cream Pie Bars, my Cranberry Cheese Squares and my Peppermint Mocha Kahlua Chocolate Chip Cheesecake (man, that was a long, dumb title, but a delicious cheesecake!)  These came out bomb... as I knew they would, because all three of those recipes are bomb!

It also helps that we live a block from a corner store... so it's quite easy to run down there and get some of those mini bottles of liqueur! 

This song was on in the car the other day.  I always feel like I need to smoke a pack of cloves before I attempt to sing it... heheh.  Alkaline Trio - Sleepyhead.  -jen
 

BANANA LIQUEUR CHEESECAKE BARS
Prep Time:  20 minutes
Cook Time:  45 minutes to cook, 1 hour to cool

Difficulty:  Medium
Makes: 18-24 squares

Crust:
  • 3/4 cup old fashioned oats
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 6 tablespoons of butter, softened
Filling:
  • 2 large bananas, sliced into 1/4"-thick rounds
  • 1 pound (two 8oz bricks) cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs, room temp
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup banana liqueur (or 2 of the small 50ml "airplane" bottles) 
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Coat a 9"x13" baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.

In a food processor, combine all of the crust ingredients and pulse several times until all flour is incorporated and mix is lumpy.  Spread evenly into prepared baking dish and then press it firmly into the pan and about 1" to 1.5" up the sides with your hand.  Bake at 375 degrees F for 15 minutes.  Remove and set aside.  (This is called "blind baking".)  Leave oven on!

While crust is baking, place softened cream cheese in a mixing bowl and beat until creamy using a stand mixer or hand mixer.  Add sugar and beat until combined.  Add eggs 1 at a time until combined.  Then add vanilla and banana liqueur, mix until smooth and creamy.

Layer sliced bananas over crust that's been blind baked, then pour batter evenly over the top.  Bake at 375 for 45 minutes until top is lightly browned and center is springy to the touch.  Let cool for 1 hour, then store in the refrigerator.

Option:  If you knew they were all going to be eaten right away, you could always make some homemade whipped cream (or Cool Whip, but I say go with the former!) and spread it over the entire top of the cooled dish.  I knew we'd have a bunch leftover to store in the fridge and I didn't want the whipped cream to melt over them all, so I just did it per serving.
 


Monday, October 24, 2016

Ceviche Verde con Camarones (Green Ceviche with Shrimp)

If you're unfamiliar with ceviche... it's basically a Latin American dish of raw seafood of one sort or another cured (which basically cooks it without any heat application) in citrus juice, usually like a salsa with seafood.  It's different from region to region, you'll never get the same one twice!  Crab, white fish, lobster, shrimp, octopus, squid, whatever!

This is a Chicago kind of post!  We were watching chef Rick Bayless' show on PBS - he has several restaurants in Chicago and while I never had the opportunity to try one while I lived there, he's a name I've known well for a long time.  Bayless did a green ceviche with shrimp that looked amazing and it's been a while since Justin and I made a ceviche, so one day I texted Justin at work with a list of ingredients, and a deal - if he stopped at the store on the way home, I'd make him ceviche.  We ended up doing it together anyway (because he's a nice guy like that).

I pretty much followed Rick Bayless' recipe, but I made a few alterations to the sauce and I quite liked it the way it came out, so I wanted to share.  Definitely can't take credit for this recipe... it's really all Rick Bayless, but here's the way I made it.

I'm not actually sure how we have never used a Rise Against song on our blog, because they're also from Chicago and I love them!  I was actually just listening to some the other day thinking surely I used at least one, if not several, of my favourite songs on the blog.  But nothin'!  Disgraceful.  So here is Rise Against with "Black Masks and Gasoline".  -jen


CEVICHE VERDE CON CAMARONES (altered version of Rick Bayless recipe)
Time:  35 minutes
Difficulty:  Too easy
Serves:  4-6 

  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
  • 6 ounces fresh tomatillos, husked, rinsed and roughly chopped, 4-5 medium
  • 1 cup (loosely packed) fresh cilantro plus  some 1/4 cup chopped
  • 1 medium-sized jalapeño (seeded for mild heat, include seeds for medium heat)
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, peeled
  • 3 medium-sized green onions, rough chopped plus 2 medium green onions diced
  • 1.5 tsp salt 
  • a few cranks of fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 pound very fresh uncooked, medium shrimp, peeled and deveined, chopped into bite size
  • 2 medium avocados, cut into 1/2" cubes
  • tortilla chips 
In a food processor or blender, combine lime juice, chopped tomatillos, 1 cup cilantro, jalapeño, garlic, 3 green onions, salt and pepper.  Blend until slushy consistency.  Combine shrimp and sauce into bowl, making sure shrimp is fully covered and refrigerate for 30 minutes.  After refrigeration, stir in 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, 2 green onions diced and avocado.  Give it a taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.  Serve with tortilla chips.




Frying up tortilla chips



Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Guilt-Free Cookie Dough Squares

The other day I was having one of those moments where I saw a recent photo of myself and was like, "Alright, time to get a little healthier again."  I'd made falafel waffles (which is fun to sing ♪♪♫), just using our Falafel Recipe and cooking it in the waffle maker with no fat; a lot better than our regular frying.  That had me remembering how healthy garbanzo beans are for us and brain storming what other ways besides hummus, falafel and salads that I could use them.  Several years ago, I remember coming across recipes for "dessert hummus" that tasted like chocolate chip cookie dough.  I made it once back then, ate it with graham crackers or something and didn't seem real impressed with it.

BUT... I thought I could probably improve upon it and turn it into a "square" or "bar" recipe.  And that's just what I did tonight!  I even took the time to go through my Guilt-Free Cookie Dough Squares recipe versus one batch of the original Nestle Toll House cookie recipe to see how much healthier mine actually was.  I figured they're pretty close to the same size in quantity, looking at the ingredient amounts... you might even get more out of mine than you would a batch of cookies.  And mine came in 2000+ calories less than one batch of cookies, almost half as many carbohydrates and sugars, and more protein!

And the beautiful thing is... they taste exactly like raw cookie dough on tasty crust!  You're getting carbs that are low on the glycemic index (at least in comparison to flour which is the main ingredient in chocolate chip cookies).  That means they release their sugars more slowly in the body - they're longer lasting and they don't spike your body's glucose levels. 

This recipe can also be made gluten-free and/or vegan! I used AP flour in the crust, but since you're not looking for the crust to rise, you could easily substitute a rice flour or an almond flour - I haven't tried it, but I don't foresee any issues.  I also used butter, but coconut oil could be used in its place.  And carob chips would be a fantastic substitute to chocolate chips! 

Let's listen to The Lurkers - "I Don't Need To Tell Her".  -jen


GUILT-FREE COOKIE DOUGH SQUARES
Time:  40 minutes with 2 hours cooling time
Difficulty:  Easy
Makes:  18 squares

Crust:
  • 3/4 cup old fashioned oats
  • 2/3 cup AP flour (or gluten-free flour - rice, almond, etc)
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened (or coconut oil)
Filling:
  • 2 (15oz) cans of garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk (or milk of choice)
  • 2/3 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips (plus 1/3 cup for drizzling - optional)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Prepare a 13"x9" baking dish with butter or non-stick cooking spray.

In a food processor, combine all of the crust ingredients except the butter.  Pulse once or twice to combine.  Add softened butter and pulse until all the dry ingredients are combined, no longer look dry and clumps begin to form.  Turn out into prepared baking dish and using the palm of your hand, press the mixture firmly into the pan evenly, working it part-way up the sides.   Bake at 375 degrees F for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown and edges are just starting to get dark.  Remove from oven and let cool completely (thirty minutes to an hour).

Meanwhile, combine the garbanzo beans, 1/2 cup old fashioned oats, peanut butter, 1/3 cup brown sugar, maple syrup, vanilla extract, salt and baking soda in a food processor (I just wiped it out after doing the crust).  Turn processor on high and add a little of the almond milk at a time, until mixture is smooth and reached desired consistency.  You may not need to use the full 1/4 cup.  Remove mixture from food processor and stir in 2/3 cup chocolate chips by hand.

Spoon the garbanzo mixture into the cooled crust and spread evenly.  If you like, melt 1/3 cup chocolate chips in a small bowl for 30 seconds in microwave.  Stir and microwave in 15 second increments until melted.  Using a spoon, drizzle melted chocolate over the top of the cookie dough squares.  Refrigerate for at least an hour.  Cut into squares.

Store in refrigerator.


Friday, August 19, 2016

Warm Chorizo and Cabbage Salad

I was at the laundromat with Justin when I came up with this idea.  I'm not sure where it came from... I knew we had a pound of chorizo in the freezer and I think I was just trying to come up with some sort of "different" salad idea.

It came out really tasty!  I'd describe it as a Mexican-style mushu... or a warm slaw?  One of Justin's coworkers had gifted us with a huge zucchini, so I just scooped that out (I actually sauteed the scooped zucchini filling with my onion and poblano), rubbed some olive oil on the inside and outside, seasoned with salt and pepper and baked in a preheated 425 oven for about 17 minutes, until tender.  Then stuffed it with the chorizo and cabbage salad.  Very good!  But the next day, I just ate it in a bowl by itself like a salad.

I don't think we've used any Good Riddance with our recipes yet - "There's No 'I' In Team".  -jen


WARM CHORIZO AND CABBAGE SALAD
Time:  about 30 minutes
Difficulty:  Easy
Makes:   about 8 cups
  • 1/2 pound chorizo sausage (the meaty kind, not the melty kind)
  • 3/4 cup onion, julienned
  • 1/2 cup poblano pepper, julienned
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3/4 cup white wine
  • 3/4 cup Restaurant Style Salsa
  • 3 cups cabbage, shredded
  • 1/2 cup carrots, shredded
  • 8oz (half a 14oz can) corn, drained
  • 8oz (half a 14oz can) garbanzo beans, drained
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 cup green onion, diced
  • salt and pepper to taste
In a large skillet, brown chorizo until cooked through.  Remove with a slotted spoon, place in a large bowl and set aside.  Using 2 tablespoons of the sausage grease, saute onion, poblano and oregano until softened and onion is translucent.  Remove with slotted spoon and set aside in same bowl as sausage.
Delicious brown bits!

While pan is still hot, add white wine and salsa, scraping up the browned bits from the pan.  Bring to a boil and then simmer for 5-7 minutes, until reduced to half.  Add cabbage, carrots, corn and beans, stirring to coat with sauce.  Cook for just a few minutes so that cabbage is still crunchy and not cooked all the way through.  Toss with cilantro and green onion.  Add a little salt and pepper if necessary.

Can be served as just a salad.  Can be put into zucchini boats (I halved my large zucchini, scooped it out, salt, pepper and olive oil on inside and baked for 15-20 minutes at 425 on a greased cookie sheet until tender), then stuffed with cabbage salad.  Could be rolled into a burrito, served as a taco, rolled in an egg roll wrapper and fried.  Served with rice or pasta.  Whatever!


Friday, August 5, 2016

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Zucchini Cake

We didn't have a garden this year, but Justin was gifted a bunch of zucchini from a coworker.  It just so happens that we'd seen Lidia Bastianich's show "Lidia's Kitchen" a few days before this where she'd made a chocolate zucchini cake.  I was just going to follow her recipe, but when I went looking for it online, it was nowhere to be found.  I assume it was because it was a recent episode and they want you to buy the cookbook.  I found a few other recipes online but they called for ingredients I didn't have so... I decided to come up with my own recipe.

I used to like to say I'm not much of a baker, but I guess our blog would actually prove me wrong.  I've been doing more and more baking and have become fairly adept at it.  Still, it's not like cooking where you can just add random ingredients here and there.  My problem is that I still try to do that with my baking and so it doesn't always come out stellar and I don't always have a recipe to post.  This recipe, however, came out great!  Woohoo!  It's moist, but light.  Somewhere in between cake and brownies.  

Let's listen to The Interrupters "On A Turntable"  -jen


CHOCOLATE AND PEANUT BUTTER ZUCCHINI CAKE
Prep Time:  15 minutes
Cook Time:  50 minutes

Difficulty:  Easy
Makes:  18-24
  • 2 + 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 + 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick), room temp
  • 1/2 cup melted coconut oil
  • 2 large eggs, room temp
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 cups grated unpeeled zucchini (about 1 large or 2 medium)
  • 3/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Butter or spray with nonstick cooking spray a 13 x 9 x 2 inch baking pan. 

In a large mixing bowl whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.

In another large mixing bowl, using a stand mixer or electric beater, beat sugar, butter and oil until smooth.  Add eggs 1 at a time and vanilla and beat until combined.  Alternately add 1 cup of dry ingredients with half of the almond milk, and repeat until mixed, starting and ending with the dry ingredients.  Mix in grated zucchini and fold in chocolate chips.  Spread batter evenly into prepared baking dish.

In a small dish, microwave peanut butter for about 30 seconds, until smooth and melted.  Spread about 5 thin rows of peanut butter across the top of the batter running them short-wise.  Using a butter knife, drag 4 rows lightly through the peanut butter going long-wise, first in one direction, then the next, to create a pretty design.  (Or just swirl, it doesn't matter!)

Bake at 325 F for about 50 minutes.  Test the center by inserting a clean knife.  If it comes out clean, the cake is done.  Cool on a wire rack.  Slice into 18 large slices or 24 small slices.


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Zuppa Bianca (Itlian White Soup)

From what I've read, traditionally a zuppa bianca is creamy from the white beans in it, often part of them being blended to thicken the soup.  I didn't want to use that many beans in mine, so I thought I'd try my own spin on the soup and it came out fantastic!
I started with homemade stock that Justin had made the day before.

I'll remind you again - SAVE ALL YOUR VEGGIE ENDS AND BONES!  Every time we cut off broccoli stems, carrot ends, onion ends, herb stems, and leftover bones we throw them into a Ziplock bag and stick 'em in the freezer.  Sooner or later you've got a full bag and you can put it all in a stock pot, add water, and make your own stock!  It's so easy, you're using every bit of the vegetable, and it's worth it to make homemade stock!

I also wanted to add anchovy, pepper, fennel and mushrooms to my zuppa bianca... also not traditional as far as I can tell, but man, they were a killer, tasty addition!  Served it up with some crusty bread and that was all you needed!  It might have been good with a little fresh Parmesan grated onto it, but we didn't have any.

This recipe makes a huge batch... you could probably half the recipe and it'd be fine, but being that I made it in a huge batch, that's the quantities I'm throwing at you.  I say make a huge batch and you can freeze the leftovers to pull out later when you don't feel like cooking.  That's what we do.

I love punk rock.  But there's a lot of old music that I really love too - I think I can sing more songs from the 60s than most people who lived through the 60s... though drugs might have something to do with that for a lot of folks.  So when punk bands cover songs from the 60s, it's no surprise that I usually love them.  (I never even stood a chance with the Gimmes.)  So let's listen to the Adolescents covering Eric Burdon and The Animals' "House of the Rising Sun"... the only song I was ever able to play on the organ, but probably can't now.  Plus... how many punk songs can you name with a harmonica solo?  -jen


ZUPPA BIANCA
Time:  about 1 hour
Difficulty:  Easy
Makes: 
  • 1 pound ground spicy Italian sausage
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 anchovies packed in oil
  • 1 cup diced celery (about 2 large stalks)
  • 1 cup diced carrots (about 2 medium
  • 1 cup diced fennel bulb (about 1 medium), reserve 1/4 cup of the fronds, chopped
  • 1 cup diced green bell pepper (about 1 large)
  • 2.5 cups diced onions (about 1 large)
  • 3 cups diced crimini mushrooms
  • 1.5 tablespoons minced garlic (about 5 medium cloves)
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt plus extra
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 3 quarts chicken stock
  • 2 cups 1/2" cubed potatoes (about 1 large potato), skin on
  • 1 can (14oz) white beans, reserve liquid
  • 3 cups chopped kale (remember to remove stems)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup chopped basil
  • 1/3 cup chopped parsley
  • lemon wedges
In a large stock pot over medium-high heat, brown the Italian sausage.  Remove sausage and set aside.  Leave 2 tablespoons of the sausage fat in the pot, discard the rest.  (That was all I actually got out of my sausage, but some sausage is fattier than others.)  Add olive oil and the anchovies to the sausage fat in the pot and cook 1 minute.  Add celery, carrots, fennel bulb, bell pepper, onions, mushrooms, garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, white pepper and 1 teaspoon salt.  Cook, stirring intermittently, until vegetables begin to soften and onions are just turning translucent.  Add white wine and cook another 2-3 minutes.  Add chicken stock, potatoes and the liquid from the beans (don't add the beans yet).  Turn heat to high and bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer.  Simmer until potatoes are tender, about 10-12 minutes (fish one out and test it).  Once potatoes are tender, add cooked sausage, beans, kale, heavy cream, basil, parley and the reserved chopped fennel fronds.  Taste the soup and add salt or pepper if necessary.  Serve each bowl with a wedge of lemon to squeeze onto the soup.



Sunday, July 3, 2016

Bruschetta


I had a craving for bruschetta, so we grabbed the ingredients to make it today.  Really... basil, garlic and tomatoes are one of my most favourite flavour combos!  They're so perfect together.  I didn't realize we didn't have a recipe for bruschetta posted!  You don't really need a recipe for bruschetta, you can make it any way you please.  But if you need a base recipe, this is a great one.  It's how I make it!

Fast and easy and a great way to use up tomatoes if you're one of those lucky people with a garden!  Or if you've been gifted with a bagful from a friend that's lucky enough to have a garden.

I don't think we've had any Ten Foot Pole with our recipes.  You might have known them in their previous incarnation of Scared Straight.  We're getting our rock on with their "Final Hours".  -jen


BRUSCHETTA
Time:  15 minutes
Difficulty:  Easy
Makes:  about 12
  • 1.5 pounds of tomatoes (about 4)
  • 1/2 cup finely diced red onion (about 1/4 onion)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (2 large cloves)
  • 1/4 cup julienned basil
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil plus extra
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 10 cranks of fresh ground blacked pepper
  • dash of balsamic vinegar
  • fresh mozzarella sliced thinly
  • 1 baguette loaf
Julienned basil
Cut tomatoes into quarters and using your thumb, scoop out the seeds and juice.  (You can save this for a different recipe later or discard.)  Small dice remaining tomato meat.  In a mixing bowl, combine tomatoes, onion, garlic, basil, 1/4 cup olive oil, salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar.  Toss and set aside.

Turn your oven onto broil.  Slice baguette on the bias to make large ovals.  Brush both sides with olive oil and place on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Toast one side under the broiler until golden brown, watching closely (it only takes 1-2 minutes to brown).  Flip and toast the second side until browned and remove.  Top toast with a slice of mozzarella and the tomato salad and serve.