Sunday, April 22, 2012

Banana Bread

I'm sorry if I've shared this recipe before, but I couldn't find it when I searched my archives.  This is my friend Boston's banana bread recipe, and it's delicious.  I'm making it for my old secretary for Administrative Professionals Day this week.  

2 large or 3 small bananas mashed

Sift together:
2 cups sifted flour
½ ts baking powder
¾ ts baking soda
½ ts salt

Beat together:
½ cup shortening
1 ¼ cup sugar
2 eggs
1 ts vanilla

Add ¼ cup sour cream or applesauce (you could also use greek yogurt or buttermilk)

Combine dry ingredients into wet ingredients, gradually, stirring pretty well. Then add applesauce, then the mashed bananas, mixing it all together well.

Bake at 350 for 45 minutes in a greased tube pan or loaf pans (I make mini loaf pans of this and it's delicious).  

Friday, April 13, 2012

Chain Restaurants - an examination and defense

My coworker and I were just discussing Ruby Tuesday and she expressed that she does not go to chains.  Her argument is "Why would I go to a chain when I have all of Baltimore?"  Which I completely agree with.  Mr. Barefoot and I try hard to avoid chains, and many people in our immediate circle of family and friends agree on this.  What is the problem with chains, exactly?  It varies.  Sometimes the food is surprisingly expensive, sometimes they don't have good vegetarian options (I am looking at you, Applebees), sometimes they move in next to a beloved local restaurant and drive them out of business. 
The problem, really, is the food.  Often it is mass-produced and over-processed.  I used to work at an Atlanta Bread Company and while our bread was made overnight, it was made from doughs that had been frozen months ago.  Our soups came in a plastic bag that you put in a vat of boiling water and eventually cut open to pour into the soup pot.  Having talked to various friends in the restaurant business, this is true of many other chains, especially fast-casual chains, as well.  Not to mention that when you eat at a local joint, especially one that purchases their food from local farmers, you are directly supporting your local community and local economy.  More of your money supports people that live and work in your neighborhood, which in turn supports other local businesses. 
However, I think chain restaurants have their place, and I am often grateful that they exist.  For example, when you have a large group of people and are in an unfamiliar location - such as when we went to run a marathon in Virginia Beach.  We had traveled from four states to converge for this race, and we had one car, and every restaurant in downtown VA Beach was totally full.  So we discussed where to go and none of us knew the area, none of us wanted to risk the race on unknown food, and we had one vegetarian and one gluten allergy to consider.  So we eventually wound up at Ruby Tuesday - because when it was suggested, all of us had eaten there in the past decade and knew that we could each order one thing off their menu that was vegetarian friendly.  After running the marathon, the five of us sat in the room and considered dinner.  Somebody said they wanted fries, and suddenly all of us wanted fries, and then somebody remembered there was a Gordon Biersch in town and suddenly we all wanted garlic fries. 
The value of chains is that it gives a common experience, which makes it infinitely easier for a group of people to agree upon a chain dining location.  With my hockey team, if you suggest Olive Garden or Greene Turtle, everybody is happy enough.  If you suggest the local indian or sushi place, some people have a problem with it and then it's forty minutes before you can make a decision and you're thinking, "I could be eating salad and breaksticks by now!"  I did put my foot down on one hockey trip and suggest to our captain that we pick one local restaurant to eat at for a fancy dinner, and we did, and it was amazing and a much more positive experience than going to Hooters.  (I don't want to talk about that trip.)
There is one other big advantage to chain restaurants that gets overlooked by people who don't have dietary restrictions - for people with allergies, chains can often put together a better dining guide, or there is a dining guide, for that particular restaurant.  Ruby Tuesday had a particularly spectacular vegetarian selection, for a chain, as well as many gluten free options, and Gordon Biersch has a whole gluten-free dining guide that is pretty amazing.  There are local restaurants that do this as well, but sometimes you don't have the time to hunt when you are hungry in an unfamiliar place. I also know where I can't eat - I know there is no vegetarian food at Arby's, no good vegetarian options at McDonalds, but at Wendy's I can get a baked potato, at Five Guys I can get a grilled cheese sandwich, at Subway I can get a veggie sandwich or a veggie burger. 
Overall, when it comes to making food decisions, I'm not sure that simply looking at a restaurant and saying, "it's a chain, I won't eat there" is any better than saying, "I won't eat anywhere that isn't a chain".  There is probably a lot more thoughtful examination required - how do they source their food, how is it prepared, is everything cooked on sight or is it prepared in a big corporate headquarters and then shipped out?  As I would like to engage in a more thoughtful examination of my food generally, can anyone point me in the direction of resources that might discuss such things?  Is there an app for this? Some kind of omnivore's dilemma rating system?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


Tonight was my annual passover dinner with my friend Boston, and I made dinner and she made apple cake and thumbprint cookies for dessert.  (Plus we had salted caramel matzoh.)  For dinner we had:

Patatas Bravas - and now we have a ton of delicious aioli leftover

Baked Sweet Potato Falafel - this recipe has some serious delicitude going on. 

Matzo Brie, topped with cheese and zucchini
4 sheets matzoh
2 eggs (or one egg and two egg whites, if you also made the aioli.)
dash of milk (about one tablespoon)
boiling water
small zucchini, sliced thin

1. Heat a skillet on medium heat until pretty hot (I actually baked my cast iron one in the oven at 400 for thirty minutes and then put it on the stove on medium heat). 

2. Break matzoh up into small-ish pieces (no bigger than two inches square), put in a colander, and pour boiling water over matzoh. 

3. Press matzoh dry with paper towel, squeezing water through colander.  Put matzoh in a shallow pan.

4. Combine eggs, milk, salt, pepper, and pour over matzoh. Allow to soak for about 5-10 minutes. 

5. Grease pan.  Be generous.  Pour matzoh and egg mixture into pan into a big pile of eggy-matzoh-ness. 

6. Add zuchinni slices if there is room around the matzoh. 

7. Once matzoh/egg has cooked on one side, flip the whole thing and cook on the other side. 

8. Flip the zucchini. 

9.  Remove matzoh from heat, top with cheese, and then zucchini. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Frozen Burritos

When I started my new job, I knew I wanted to have easy to grab lunches in the fridge.  I went from working at 10am to 8:30am, so I no longer had time to make myself lunch in the morning if we had gone out the night before and didn't have leftovers, or just had burgers and fries for dinner.  I buy the CedarLane Vegetarian Burritos from Costco, but they don't always have them, and I was looking for an even cheaper way to make freezable lunches. 

So when I had an extra sweet potato one day, and had accidentally opened a can of Trader Joe's Refried Beans instead of black beans, I whipped up about 8 frozen burritos.  They are surprisingly delicious and store pretty easily.  I just let it thaw on my windowsill all morning, then heat it up in the microwave. 

1-2 sweet potatoes, mashed (add salt and pepper to taste)
1 can vegetarian refried beans
6-8 flour tortillas (I used white and I think that is part of why they held up so well - the white ones are just softer and heartier)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1. Put a flour tortilla on a piece of saran-wrap. 
2. Spoon sweet potatoes and refried beans into center of tortilla until it is pretty full.
3. Add cheddar cheese to the top. 
4. Fold burrito over and in on itself.  If it is having trouble sticking, use a bit of sweet potato as additional glue.  Immediately wrap in Saran Wrap. 
5. If your sweet potatoes are still hot, place in the refrigerator until cool.  If they are not hot, place burrito directly in the freezer. 

I made these about 2 months ago and just had one for lunch and it was good. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

More Chia Granola

I've made three batches of burned granola lately - I keep leaving it in the oven, and it's just not quite dark enough - not quite - and then BAM - burned.

So I switched to the crockpot.  Which meant when I burned it around the edges, I spooned that part out.  I've also added coconut, so here is a new recipe.

2 cups oats
1/2 cup coconut flakes
1/4-1/2 cup chia seeds
1 stick butter, melted
1/4-1/2 cup honey (or "a generous pour" as I measured)
1/8-1/4 cup corn syrup (or "a generous spurt" as I measured)

1. Combine oats, chia, butter, 1/4 cup coconut flakes, and honey and corn syrup in crockpot.
2. Cook on high for approimately 2 hours, leaving a wooden stick in the crock so that the crockpot vents.
3. Once done cooking, add remaining coconut flakes, stir, and put lid on.  Allow to cool completely.

The granola on it's own is pretty good, but this morning I added chopped dates which took me from pretty good to "best breakfast ever."