Chocolate Chip Banana “Ice Cream”

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Just take a look at that picture.  What do you see?  Ice cream.  You see ice cream.  Don’t pretend otherwise.  What if I told you that this ice cream was actually HEALTHY?!?! Seriously.

I first saw the idea to make ice cream out of bananas on a cooking show and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.  However, I rarely have bananas at home and it seemed silly to buy bananas just to freeze and pulverize them.  Little did I know, my fiance bought bananas and put them away where neither of us found them until they were starting to go bad.  And voila!  Now I have bananas to freeze.  I instantly thought of banana ice cream.

We love ice cream at my house, but it isn’t really conducive for the wedding diet plan.  By diet, I mostly just mean “try not to think of the fattiest, creamiest dish possible in every situation and occasionally choose something healthy.”  Banana ice cream definitely helps.  It is soft and creamy, exactly the texture of a soft serve.  The banana makes gives it a touch of sweetness without making it cloying.  You could either eat this ice cream plain, or mix add ons into the bowl.  Almost anything would work.  Cacao, berries, jam, really anything.  I chose to use some leftover chocolate chip cookies from our trip to the Minnesota State Fair!  There is an amazing booth called “Sweet Martha’s” that gives you an actual bucket of cookies.  A large bucket.  The fiance and I always get the bucket but can never finish it before the cookies go stale.  Two day old cookies were perfect, because they kept their crunch in the ice cream instead of just disintegrating.  Any sort of candy could do the same thing if you don’t happen to have two day old cookies.  🙂

This may take the award for simplest recipe on the blog.  And it is ice cream.  Winning!!!

Ingredients

  • 2 bananas
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • Any desired add ons (optional)

Directions

Take two bananas and freeze overnight (at least).  Peel the bananas after they are frozen.  You may need to use a paring knife to get you started.  After the first strip, the rest should come off easily by hand.  Try to get rid of all the strings.  Put into a food processor or a Ninja blender.  I am not sure a regular blender would work for this.  Turn the food processor/Ninja to low and while it is blending add the milk through the top.  I had to stop the blender twice to scrape the sides.  After a minute or so you should see the mixture turn white and smooth.  If you have large bananas you may need to add a little more milk.  You want a soft, smooth mix.

After the mixture is emulsified, remove from the blender into a bowl.

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Now if you plan to add toppings, fold them into the mix.  Pop back into the freezer for about 10 minutes, or until it is a little more solid.  Then serve.  If you are not adding toppings it can be served immediately, or after 10 minutes in the freezer.  Totally up to you.

This can be left in the freezer for a couple days in a covered dish.  Just let sit out for 5 minutes, then stir before serving.

Now go get the ice cream fix in before the warm weather is gone forever!

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Until next time, my loves!

Classic Lasagna

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Summer is over, friends.  Tomorrow I go back to work, to my classroom, open house, parents, lesson plans, grading, meetings, and my students.  Tomorrow.  Oh my goodness.

So I had to make one of my favorite meals that happens to take a ridiculous amount of time to cook, making it almost impossible on a school-year-weekday.  That meal, of course, is lasagna.  Beautiful, decadent, all from scratch lasagna.  This meal seems to get a bit mistreated in the USA, because people drench the noodles in unnecessary quantities of sauce and cheese and don’t let the noodles do their job of carrying the dish.  Pasta is delicious.  It does not need to be drowned.

I made this dish with a creamy ricotta and sour cream sauce, my marinara sauce recipe (that seems to be going into everything these days).  homemade pasta, and a mixture of ground beef and mushrooms for some heart and earthiness.  Of course, there was also lots of mozzarella cheese.  This is my meal plan for dinners this week, because I just will not have much time to cook.  Open house goes late both Tuesday and Wednesday.

It may seem strange to celebrate summer with a heavy baked pasta.  Don’t judge.  It has been cool here.  Summer is over anyway.

Ingredients

  • 1 batch marinara sauce
  • 22 oz ricotta cheese
  • 10 oz sour cream ( I used a light version)
  • 4-6 cups shredded mozzarella, as desired
  • 3.5 cups flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 T water
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 8 oz baby bella mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 T black pepper
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp chili flakes
  • salt
  • olive oil

Directions

Start by preparing the marinara sauce using the recipe in the link.

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Let it simmer for up to half an hour, then turn heat off. (Everything is easier to work with if it is cool when you build the lasagna.

While the sauce simmers, prepare the meat and mushrooms.  Cook the ground beef in a large skillet over medium heat.  When it starts to brown, add the chopped mushrooms, cumin, smoked paprika, chili flakes, salt, and 1 T black pepper.  Continue cooking until the meat is done and the mushrooms have released and then soaked their juices back up.

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The meat gets a slight kick to it from the spices.  It is fab.  When it is done, let cool until you are ready to build the lasagna.

While the meat cooking, make the pasta dough.  Put flour, eggs, water, and 1 tsp salt in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Mix with a spoon until ingredients start to combine, then attach your dough hook and let it knead the dough for 2-3 minutes.  Then use your hands to form the dough into a ball.  The dough should be leathery but pliable, not sticky at all.  Add water or flour as necessary to make it the right consistency.  Let the dough rest at room temperature for 20 minutes.

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While the dough rests, make the cheese sauce.  Combine ricotta, sour cream, and 1 T black pepper in a large bowl.  Let rest until you are ready to build the lasagna.

Set a large pot of water to boil, with a bit of salt and oil in it.  When it is close to boiling, Send your pasta through your pasta roller.  Set it through on the thickest setting to knead 4-5 times, folding in half between trips.  When it is smoother and the same thickness as your roller, send it through the thinner levels until you can start to see your hand through it.  I just went to level 4 on my Kitchenaid pasta roller.

Use a pasta cutter to cut each sheet to desired size.  I cut each pasta sheet into fourths.

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Put the sheets into  boiling water and cook for about 2 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon and let rest on a pan until you build the lasagna.  Feel free to drizzle the pasta with a little extra olive oil to prevent it from sticking.  I cooked the pasta in two batches.

To build the lasagna, start with about a cup of the sauce on the bottom of a 9″by13″ baking dish.  Then lay down one layer of noodles.

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Top with the ricotta cheese mix.

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Finally add the meat mix and a half cup of sauce.
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Top with another layer of pasta.  Repeat these layers until you are out of toppings.  I had four layers.  Make sure to reserve enough sauce to put on top of the dish.  I did this by not adding the sauce mix to every layer.  Also, add shredded mozzarella to at least one or two of the layers, on top of the ricotta.  Again, reserve enough to put on top of the dish at the end.

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When you are out of toppings, finish with a final layer of pasta noodles, then sauce, and finally shredded mozzarella.

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You should have a full pan of deliciousness.  Now!  The full lasagna can be refrigerated until you are ready to cook it if you are planning to make it within the next day or two.  You can also freeze it for another day.  When you are ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Cook the lasagna for 30-40 minutes.  When it is finished, let cool for 3-5 minutes before serving.

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Goodbye summer, I will miss you!

Buffalo Chicken Wontons

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When I was in high school I got a job at a horrible mall food court pizza place.  The kind where pre-made pizza and baked pasta sit under a heat lamp all day looking progressively sadder.  As a kid, it was edible for a while, but eventually everything tasted like grease and it was time for a change of flavor.  In a food court, however, your options are pretty limited.  The only thing that I could eat just about every day while working was the wontons at the (mostly crappy and completely Americanized) Chinese food place next door.  Crunchy on the outside, creamy and savory on the inside.  I couldn’t tell you exactly what was in those wontons, but I do know that my love for savory wontons hasn’t diminished since high school.  Though I definitely don’t eat them as often as in my food court employment days.

This wonton recipe was inspired by game day cuisine.  In more ways than one.  It started last weekend when my father called a half hour before we had to leave for an American football game and said he wanted to tailgate before the game, instead of going to a bar, and that I should pack food.  What is a girl to do in that amount of time?  My response was a creamy, cold, buffalo chicken dip.  I had made hot buffalo chicken dip before, but without the time, I needed something quicker.  The result was more than I could have hoped for.  The dip was creamy, with enough buffalo flavor as well as the ranch dressing to balance the heat.

The trick to this dip was how quickly I could throw it together, while also packing soda, beer, chips, and salsa to make a good tailgate cooler.  I ran to the store down the street and grabbed quick ingredients, which is very different from how I usually cook.  I used a pre-cooked, grocery store rotisserie chicken, as well as store bought ranch.  Maybe next time I will do it all the long way.  But if you are looking to throw something quick and delicious together for a get together, I definitely recommend serving this dip with some tortilla chips.

But the dip is not what I am writing about.  I am writing about wontons.

So what do you do after game day when you have (not a lot, but more than you should eat in one sitting) leftover delicious buffalo chicken dip?  Make wontons.  Obviously.

So you want my expert recommendation?

Make the buffalo dip.  Have people over.  Eat half of it.  Turn the other half into wontons.

Boom.  Delicious!

In fact, I stopped in the middle of writing this post and made another batch.  You should probably do the same.

Ingredients

For Buffalo Chicken Dip:

  • 1 rotisserie chicken, deboned and shredded
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup buffalo dip
  • 1/4 cup ranch dressing
  • 2 cups shredded cheese (I used a triple cheddar blend from the grocery store)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder

For the wontons:

  • wonton wrappers (however many you desire)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Directions

Start by preparing the buffalo dip.  Combine all of those ingredients in a large bowl thoroughly with a fork.  You could also use a mixer if you wanted, but I did it by hand.  Feel free to add or subtract from the amounts of buffalo sauce and ranch dressing depending on how strong you want those flavors to be.

After the dip is made, set some of it aside to serve with tortillas chips.  This is the perfect tailgate party appetizer.

To make the wontons, crack the egg into a small dish and beat thoroughly.  Pour the olive oil into a small skillet.  (Use more oil if you are using a larger skillet.  You want a solid layer of oil on the bottom of the pan, just not too thick. I only made about 5 wontons at a time for the fiance and I, so a small skillet was fine.)  Heat on medium while you make the wontons.  For each wonton, set the wrapper on a flat surface.  Set about a tablespoon of buffalo chicken dip in the middle of the wrapper.

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Use a small brush, or a clean finger, to spread a thin layer of the egg wash on the edges of the wonton.  Fold over and seal the edges completely.

When the oil is hot, set the wontons in the pan.  Let cook for about a minute or so until the outside is brown, and then flip.

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When the second side is cooked, after about another minute, remove from the pan and set on a paper towel over a plate, to soak up the excess oil.  This keeps it from getting soggy or too greasy.  (Like bad food court cuisine…)

Serve as is, or with blue cheese dressing to dip in if you want another creamy element. I just ate them as quickly as possible.

Serious yum factor here.

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Green Curry Steak

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So I am not gone for good!

My life has been crazy busy and I have not made time to blog about anything for far too long.  My sister has been bugging me to get back in the saddle and write about something delicious though so here it goes!

Something I love about cooking is all the different cultures you can experience right in the comfort of your home.  You can experience the smells and tastes of somewhere oceans away from you!  And the best part is most grocery stores are beginning to sell much wider varieties of culturally authentic ingredients.

And here is where we introduce you to curry!  Curry comes in three basic, easy to find in your grocery store, forms: curry powder, green curry paste, and red curry paste.  While each of these has its own set of delicious uses I am a huge fan of green curry.  The biggest difference between green and red curry is just the pepper color.  most of the other ingredients are about the same.  Green curry also has some green herbs in it however which is why I like it more.

So I had some steak and some green curry and some free time on my hands and decided to cook up something fun!

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To make really good curry you really only need three ingredients you miiiiight not already have on hand: curry, coconut milk, and fish sauce.  However, if your grocery store has an Asian food section, even a tiny tiny one, it probably has all of these things. Then, along with chopping up lots of fresh veggies you are set to cook something wonderful.

Green Curry Steak

 

White rice (however much you want!)

2 Tbsp olive oil

2 Tbsp fine chopped ginger

2-3 green chilies (depending on how spicy you want)

3 cloves garlic

1/2 onion

3-4 Tbsp green curry paste

1 can coconut milk

juice from 1/2 lime

2 Tbsp fish sauce

2 tsp sugar

2 delicious juicy steaks of your choosing

salt and pepper

fresh cilantro or basil to garnish (optional)

 

First start the rice cooking so it will be finished on time.

In a large sauce pan or wok heat oil.  Add ginger, chilies, garlic, onion, and curry paste.  Saute on high heat but only till aromatic, 1-2 minutes.  Add the coconut milk and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.

While the sauce is simmering prepare the steak. trim off any extra fat and rub salt and pepper on both sides.  Next rub a small amount of curry paste on all sides. pan fry to desired doneness. Slice into thin pieces.

When the curry is done simmering add the fish sauce, sugar, and salt and pepper to taste.

Serve over rice and and top with steak pieces and.

Enjoy!

Sweet Potato Gnocchi

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It feels like fall here in Minnesota, and that is one of the best times for food.  There is still tons of farm fresh produce but it is cool enough to make some of those rich, comforting dishes that are so perfect for fall.  Currently I happen to crave sweet potatoes.  I made some curry with sweet potatoes in it, a sweet potato hash, sweet potato burrito bowls, and tonight we had this yummy gnocchi!

I am kind of obsessed with sweet potato, pumpkin, and butternut squash pastas.  I considered making ravioli, but gnocchi are a little less labor intensive.  Not a lot less, but still.  Every bit helps when you are tired and kind of just want to drink wine, watch some preseason football, and Skype with your sister.

Most sweet potato gnocchi recipes involve drenching your dumplings in melted butter.  I wanted to go a little less fat encased and instead made a white wine sauce, with significantly less better.  I also added kale and walnuts to give the dish a little more crunch and some actual health benefits.

Comfort food craving officially satisfied.

Ingredients

  • 1 large sweet potato (sometimes called a yam in USA grocery stores for some unknown reason)
  • 8 oz ricotta cheese
  • 1 2/3 cup flour
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp all spice
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 4 T butter, diced into cubes
  • 4 pieces of Tuscan Kale (Or type of your choice, I just had Tuscan on hand.)
  • 1/4 cup (approx) chopped walnuts
  • parmesan cheese, for serving

Directions

Start by peeling the sweet potato and cutting it into about 1/2 inch cubes.

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Heat a pot of water over high heat until it is boiling.  Add the sweet potato and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until soft.

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Can we get some love for my green cutting board?!?!

Mash with a fork or potato masher until very smooth.

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Add ricotta, flour, salt, pepper, nutmeg and all spice.  Knead with your hands until all the ingredients are combined.  It should form a soft dough, but not stick to your hands.  Depending on the size of your sweet potato you may need to add more flour to keep it from sticking.  Just don’t add too much, or you will end up with dense gnocchi.

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Divide your dough ball into fourths and roll on your cutting board until they form a logs about the thickness of a finger.

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Use your fork to make little ridges in the dough on each side of the roll, then cut into pieces about an inch long.  It is ok if they look a little small, as they will expand while cooking.

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Heat another pot of boiling water, with some salt and a little oil in the water.  Cook the gnocchi in two batches, about five minutes each.  This helps them to not stick together.  Do NOT cook over five minutes, as that will make them a little too dense. Remove first batch after five minutes with a slotted spoon before cooking the second batch.

While the gnocchi are cooking, heat your white wine (I used a sauvignon blanc) in a small sauce pan.  Take the stem off your Kale and cut it into small strips.  After the wine reaches a simmer, add the kale and a bit of salt and pepper and bring back up to simmer.  After 2-3 minutes, remove the pan from heat and quickly stir in the butter.  Let the sauce rest off the heat until serving.

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To serve the dish, spoon desired amount of gnocchi in each bowl.  Top with kale and sauce.  Then sprinkle generously with shredded parmesan and chopped walnuts.

Scrum-diddly-umptious.

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Shakshuka

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Believe it or not, I am a real person.  As such, I do not like to waste food that I spent a long time cooking.  So when I make something like Eggplant Parmigiana that only uses half a batch of marinara sauce, I have to make something with the other half immediately!  Fortunately, my marinara sauce recipe is pretty amazing, so any excuse to eat it is a good excuse.

This dish has jumped right up onto my list of favorite breakfast meals.  It is warm, comforting, flavorful, and easy to make.  Did I mention healthy.  It is healthy too!  It is a skillet full of vegetables and eggs.  Shakshuka is traditionally a breakfast dish, but it would also work for a lunch or light dinner. Just serve it with some crusty bread, or even pita or challah, to help soak up the extra sauce.  Or skip the bread if you are cutting carbs, whatever floats your boat.  This dish is delicious either way.

Since I used the leftover sauce from another dish, my sauce had been sitting in the fridge for a couple days.  This is actually a good thing, as it lets the flavors marinade together to give the sauce greater depth.  If you don’t have any sauce already made, I will give the recipe below (for a half batch), but really any red pasta sauce will work for this.  The only thing you have to add is about a teaspoon of cumin, and half a teaspoon of smoked paprika.  That’s it.

Shakshuka is also pretty fun to say.

Ingredients

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 14 oz crushed tomatoes
  • 4 oz tomato paste
  • 1 tsp dry oregano
  • 1 tsp dry parsley
  • 1 tsp dry rosemary
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • salt and pepper
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta
  • 2 T fresh parsley, cilantro, or tarragon, chopped

Directions

Heat olive oil in a skillet.  Add onion and bell pepper and cook for about 8 minutes, or until the onion is translucent.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute.  Add tomato and cook for about 5 more minute.  Finally, pour the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and seasonings in the skillet.  Bring to a simmer and cook down for about 15 minutes.

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Crack the six eggs over the top of the sauce, evenly spreading them out.

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Sprinkle feta over the skillet. Salt and pepper the eggs lightly.

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Put a lid on the skillet and let simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the whites are cooked.  You want the eggs to still be runny.  Top with fresh chopped herb of your choice. (I used tarragon, because that is what looked good in my herb garden!)

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Serve with bread if desired to mop up the extra sauce.  Or just eat it up the way it is.  I promise I won’t judge.

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