Quick Breads Aren’t Just For Breakfast

I think everyone should have a good set of go to recipes in their repertoire. I know I have my favorites that consistently make their way into my regular meal planning. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about trying new things out, but the tried and true recipes are what sustain us in between stretching our culinary wings.

One of my favorite type of recipes to make are quick breads. I have a few excellent reasons for this. They are usually fast to mix up. Just one bowl means less dishes that I have to do. I’m lazy. Forgive me. They taste kind of like a combination of cake and bread. I can snack on this anytime of day and never feel the slightest twinge of guilt. Is it a breakfast food? Is it a dessert? Is it an afternoon snack? No one knows for sure. But one thing is certain, they’re delicious.

A good quick bread recipe, in my opinion, has to be moist. Dry and crumbly will not do. So to that end, incorporating fruit or vegetables helps to create that outcome. Bananas, zucchini, carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin. That’s practically health food! Also, I have found that recipes with oil, instead of butter, tend to stay moist longer. If I were a scientist I would know the reason why, but I’m not.

I’m sharing my banana bread recipe. I make it with walnuts, but that is totally optional. I hope you give this try. It’s really good warm out of the oven, but I’m 100% convinced that it tastes even better the next day ♥️

Banana Bread

2 cups flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

1 egg

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 Tbsp buttermilk

1 tsp vanilla extract

4 bananas, peeled and mashed

1 1/2 cup chopped nuts, divided

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly coat 9×5” loaf pan or 4 mini loaf pans with nonstick cooking spray and set aside. Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Combine wet ingredients in a small bowl. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir to combine. Add bananas and 1 cup nuts and mix thoroughly. Pour batter into prepared pan(s). Sprinkle top with remaining nuts. Bake 45-60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool in pan 5-10 minutes before removing from pan.

Treats For Your Fur Babies

I have two beautiful fur babies. Louie and Henri, my long haired dachshunds, are my little loves. Dogs give us a special kind of unconditional love that is hard to come by these days.

When I first adopted Louie six years ago, I couldn’t have imagined how perfect he was for me. I honestly believe he is as close to a soulmate as possible. He just gets me. And I totally get him.

Henri is a new addition (my Christmas present from my daughter), and being still a puppy, we are all adjusting to the energy. He is extremely adorable and full of personality.

Dachshunds are usually adventurous foodies but somehow I have managed to adopt two of the pickiest eaters of the canine world. So finding dog food and treats they will both eat is a challenge. I think with most pet foods the key is keeping it simple. It is less likely to activate a food sensitivity and definitely better for their overall health and weight management.

In a nod to National Love Your Pet Day, I’m sharing a simple canine cookie with you. Louie loves these and he’s the pickier eater of the two so that says a lot about it. I hope you give these a try if you have a little fur baby that enjoys special treats!

Healthy Hound Biscuits

1 medium banana, mashed

1 egg

1/2 cup peanut butter

1/2 cup oats

1 Tbsp flax seeds

1 cup whole wheat flour

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Combine all ingredients and mix well. Make 1” balls of dough and place on parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Flatten balls of dough with the base of a glass or by hand. Bake 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and fully cool. Store in airtight container at room temperature.

Hail To The Chiefs

Happy Presidents’ Day! 45 presidents and each with their own unique style as Commander In Chief. A recent survey listed George Washington and Abraham Lincoln as tied for the most respected and prominent presidents. It’s no wonder. They both were responsible for shaping so much of our history and government. And they also share the same birth month too – February.

I couldn’t settle on one particular dish to make for the day so I decided to go a different route with a little presidential food trivia. So here’s a rundown on our leaders favorite foods!

1. George Washington – cherries and nuts were among his favorite things to eat, despite the longstanding myth that he cut down his father’s cherry tree.

2. John Adams – pickles were a regular part of his daily meals.

3. Thomas Jefferson – anything French, but he was well known for his signature dish of macaroni and cheese.

4. James Madison – his wife, Dolley Madison was famous for her cakes, but his indulgence was ice cream. Plain vanilla.

5. James Monroe – being a Virginian, he regularly enjoyed a comfort food he grew up on, spoon bread.

6. John Quincy Adams – fresh fruit everyday would make this past president one of the healthiest eaters.

7. Andrew Jackson – he was also enamored with French cuisine much like Thomas Jefferson. But his favorite dish was called Floating Islands Dessert, a poached meringue with vanilla custard.

8. Martin Van Buren – oysters were his weakness and he was rumored to eat them by the bushel.

9. William Henry Harrison – squirrel stew. I can’t even wrap my mind around that.

10. John Tyler – he absolutely loved desserts, specifically pudding. And even more specifically, Indian pudding. In its original form, this was basically cornmeal, milk, and molasses.

11. James Polk – embracing his southern roots, he loved corn pone, something akin to cornbread.

12. Zachary Taylor – creole foods and a pastry called calas, which are a type of beignets made with rice.

13. Millard Fillmore – his comfort food was any kind of soup. Yum!

14. Franklin Pierce – being a New Englander, he loved clams, clam chowder and a dessert known as apple pandowdy (similar to an apple pie or apple cobbler).

15. James Buchanan – another French cuisine fan, but his real go to food was cabbage.

16. Abraham Lincoln – gingerbread cookies were his favorite snack, particularly his mother’s recipe.

17. Andrew Johnson – Hoppin’ John is a southern dish of bacon, black eyed peas, rice and onions, most often enjoyed on New Years for good luck, but he ate it year round.

18. Ulysses Grant – rice pudding helped get him through his presidency.

19. Rutherford Hayes – he was a breakfast kind of guy and enjoyed cornmeal pancakes, with lots of syrup.

20. James Garfield – squirrel stew. Ugh. Once again, I have no words for this.

21. Chester Arthur – his favorite food aligned pretty well with his facial hair, mutton chops.

22. Grover Cleveland – pickled herring were among his top choice snack foods.

23. Benjamin Harris – he liked to keep food simple. No frills corn on the cob with a little butter and salt.

24. Grover Cleveland – second time around (he was the only president to serve two terms that were non consecutive), and he still indulged with pickled herring.

25. William McKinley – he was another basic eater, nothing unique, but he really liked fish.

26. Theodore Roosevelt – it’s no surprise that as a hunter, this president loved wild game and steak.

27. William Taft – being the heaviest of all presidents (over 300 lbs), he indulged obviously in everything. But his favorite fare was steak and potatoes. And more potatoes.

28. Woodrow Wilson – a health conscious eater, his preferred food was a simple chicken salad.

29. Warren Harding – chicken pot pie was the most requested meal for him.

30. Calvin Coolidge – prepare yourself for this food fancy. Apple pie with a twist of pork mix in. So, an apple and bacon pie?

31. Herbert Hoover – sweet potatoes and marshmallows were a standard dish for him all year long.

32. Franklin D. Roosevelt – he was completely enamored with hotdogs and actually served them to the King and Queen of England during a statehood visit.

33. Harry Truman – a devoted steak eater, but only if it was very well done. He once said only coyotes and predatory animals eat their meat raw.

34. Dwight Eisenhower – he was actually a very good cook, but his wife, Mamie, got most of the credit for her famous fudge which was his go to snack.

35. John F. Kennedy – being a true Bostonian, his favorite food was New England fish chowder.

36. Lyndon Johnson – while he loved to indulge on tapioca pudding, his absolute requirement was the soft drink, Fresca. He actually installed a buzzer in his office so it could be brought to him on demand.

37. Richard Nixon – sit down for this food fetish. Cottage cheese and ketchup. I can’t even imagine how you stumble on to that combination.

38. Gerald Ford – he was another breakfast fan. Waffles with strawberries and sour cream. Seems pretty reasonable compared to his predecessor.

39. Jimmy Carter – grits were his comfort food during a pretty tumultuous presidency.

40. Ronald Reagan – Jelly Belly jelly beans. I honestly think this is my favorite presidential foodie story. He had a standing monthly order for the White House of over 300k.

41. George HW Bush – pork rinds with Tabasco. This is another one of those food combos that just make you wonder why. But his love for pork rinds gave the snack food an 11% increase in sales during his presidency.

42. Bill Clinton – heart health issues and stress probably were part of his eventual food lifestyle change to vegan. But before that he was a die hard ( no pun intended) jalapeño cheeseburger fanatic.

43. George W Bush – this guy loves cheeseburger pizza. The combo of two iconic ‘Merican foods because that’s how we roll in ‘Merica.

44. Barack Obama – nachos with lots and lots of guacamole. I think we can all totally appreciate that!

45. Donald Trump – Big Macs, because he’s afraid of being poisoned. And apparently no one working at McDonald’s for minimum wage would ever think of doing that.

So there you have the Presidents’ Day foodie favorites! Here’s a presidential salute to our past Commander In Chiefs. Thank you for your leadership 1-44 ♥️

Cheers For Ciambelle al Vino aka Wine Cookies

“Wine is bottled poetry.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

Today is National Drink Wine Day! So raise your glass to toast the grape, the beautiful fruit that gets better with age. I must confess I’m not much of a wine connoisseur. My palate is pretty immature, preferring Rieslings and sweet dessert wine over hearty red wines.

It’s a rare occasion that I would open a bottle for the sole purpose of drinking it. But on occasion I will have a small glass if I’m cooking with it (quality control and such, of course). And honestly I have very few recipes that call for wine so it doesn’t happen often.

This past holiday season as I was looking for new and different Italian cookie recipes, I came across ciambelle al Vino. It’s an old Italian cookie that works well with any type of wine and is so simplistic in ingredients that I had my doubts about it. But my curiosity got the best of me and I had to try it just because. I’m so glad I did.

The cookie texture is crunchy, similar to biscotti, with a touch of anise flavor. Since it doesn’t use eggs or butter, it’s also vegan. The dough comes together very easily. Probably the most time consuming part is in shaping them like tiny donuts or bagels. There are two different methods for this. You can either roll out 5″ ropes of dough and pinch the ends together in a circle or make 2″ balls of dough and poke your finger through the center to make a donut shape. I prefer to use the latter method.

Once baked, they last quite awhile in an airtight container. I hope you give them a try. Pair with a steaming hot cup of coffee or tea, and you’ll have a delicious dessert or snack. Cheers to cookies and wine 🍷♥️

Ciambelle al Vino

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup oil

1/2 cup wine

1 tsp anise extract

3 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1/4 cup coarse sanding sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine granulated sugar, oil, wine, and anise extract. In a separate medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Gradually add flour to liquids in mixing bowl. Combine on low speed until ingredients are all incorporated together. Using a large cookie scoop, make 2” balls of cookie dough. Poke your finger through the center and shape like a donut or bagel. Roll shaped cookies in coarse sanding sugar and place on baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 1-2 minutes before moving cookies to cooling rack. Store cooled cookies in an airtight container at room temperature. Makes approximately 18 cookies.

Keep Calm and Bake Bread

“All sorrows are less with bread.” – Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote

Something about fresh baked bread from the oven is one of life’s little pleasures. The smell that fills your home. The crusty exterior and pillow soft interior. The wisp of steam that escapes with the very first slice you cut. A pat of butter melting into every crevice. I love it!

Baking bread used to feel like the scariest task, but I got over my fear by just throwing myself into doing it. Sometimes that’s the easiest way to get past feeling intimidated or overwhelmed. If you are a seasoned bread baker, you probably know what I mean. If you aren’t, I promise you that diving in may feel scary at first but it just takes a little prep, patience, and practice.

Aside from eating the bread, my favorite part is the magic of yeast. Call me a geek, but I am truly fascinated by watching the yeast “bloom” in the liquid to start the whole process. And it is incredible to me how the dough rises with a few simple ingredients, the right room temperature, and a little time.

This recipe is for a basic French bread. I shaped them in medium size rounds but they can be made into rolls or a large loaf. It’s totally up to you. I hope you give it a try!

Basic French Bread Rounds

1 Tbsp dry active yeast

1 1/2 cups warm water, 100-115 degrees

2 Tbsp sugar

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 tsp salt

3 1/2 – 4 cups flour

In the bowl of a stand mixer combine yeast, sugar and water. Let sit 5 minutes to activate yeast. Then stir in salt and olive oil. With a dough hook attachment, gradually add flour one cup at a time until dough pulls away from sides of the bowl. Continue kneading with dough hook for 7-10 minutes. Place dough in a large greased bowl. Flip dough to coat with oil in bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm draft free spot to rise for 1-2 hours or until doubled in volume. Once dough is ready, gently deflate and remove from bowl. Cut in 4 large pieces and roll into balls. Place on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover and allow to rise 30-40 minutes more. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake for 18-20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

The Birthday Cake – A Tale Of Two Desserts

My youngest daughter asked for my help this week in making a birthday cake for her boyfriend. My heart skipped a joyful beat. For me as a parent, the best compliment my children can give me is asking for my help to make or create something with them.

She wanted it to be special, but not too difficult or expensive. We tossed around a few ideas when she casually mentioned that he really liked Pineapple Upside Down Cake, but without the pineapple. Not a fan of pineapple. What he really liked was the texture of the cake and the caramelized top. This got me thinking about other fruit options to replace the pineapple.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake is kind of a retro type dessert and it occurred to me that Bananas Foster is also another popular dessert from the same era, the 1950s. So we combined the two desserts to come up with Bananas Foster Upside Down Cake. The only disappointing thing about it is that I didn’t think of it sooner.

It comes together pretty quick. I think the most important note is prep your pan really well. In the past I’ve had issues with a regular Pineapple Upside Down Cake sticking to the pan, but thankfully that didn’t happen today. The last thing you want for a special dessert is half of it stuck in the pan.

I hope you go “bananas” for this cake! It’s definitely a fun twist on an old classic ♥️

Bananas Foster Upside Down Cake

1/2 cup melted butter, divided

3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed

1 Tbsp dark rum

2 medium bananas

1 1/4 cup flour

3/4 cup sugar

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2/3 cup milk

1 tsp vanilla

1 egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously coat a 9×2″ round pan with nonstick spray. Pour 1/4 cup of melted butter in bottom of pan, mix in rum and distribute. Add brown sugar and evenly distribute over butter. Peel bananas and slice in coins then arrange in single layer on top of butter, rum, and brown sugar, pressing down slightly. In a medium bowl, combine rest of ingredients with a hand held mixer, blending for 2 minutes. Pour batter into pan over bananas. Bake 40-45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool 10 minutes in pan. Invert with a plate on top of pan to remove cake. Fully cool at room temperature. Garnish with whipped cream and extra banana slices, if desired.

Wisconsin – Sweet Dreams Are Made Of Cheese

Today is National Wisconsin Day to honor the 30th state. Famous for dairy products and breweries, Wisconsin also has a rich history of mining. In the mid 1800s, German immigrants were the largest group to settle there and their influence is still present today.

Wisconsin is also known more specifically for its cheese production. It is the largest cheese producer in the United States with over 600 varieties. And it is the only US state that requires a licensed cheesemaker to oversee the production of commercially produced cheese. The educational program to become a certified cheese master is extremely rigorous and only offered in Wisconsin. If you’re from Wisconsin, you proudly embrace all things cheese related!

And the rest of us are eternally grateful to them for their dedication to cheese. And beer. So the perfect, and logical culinary marriage is beer cheese soup. The first time I ever had it was in 1999 when a friend worked at The Gasthaus here in Portland. He gave me the recipe for their beer cheese soup which was delicious, but it made a ridiculous quantity since it was formulated for a full size restaurant. Trying to scale it down, I think something was lost in the final outcome even though it was still amazing. But this recipe is the closest to the way I remember it.

I baked some French bread rounds to go with it. Or you can pair it with a simple garden salad to balance things out. This is soup is not health food. But, this is rich, velvety, cheesy heaven in a bowl. For garnish, try an extra sprinkling of cheese, a few croutons, or even popcorn (I’ve read that’s a Wisconsin thing, but I honestly don’t know why).

And last, but not least, remember that cheese is always the answer, even if you don’t remember the question.

Wisconsin Beer Cheese Soup

6 slices bacon

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

1/2 cup finely chopped celery

1/2 cup finely chopped carrots

1 Tbsp minced garlic

2 cup chicken broth

1/4 cup flour

1 tsp sugar

2 heaping cups shredded cheddar cheese, plus extra for garnish

1 1/2 cup half and half cream

12 oz beer, flat

Salt and pepper to taste

Fry bacon in medium pot. Remove from pot and drain on paper towels and crumble. Set aside. Sauté vegetables in 2 Tbsp of bacon grease until soft. Sprinkle flour over vegetables and whisk in chicken broth. Stir constantly to thicken. Stir in sugar, cream, beer, and cheese. Simmer for 15 minutes more and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Soufflés And Sweet Success

Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone! February 14th is also the anniversary of Oregon’s statehood in 1859. So if you’re an Oregonian, today is especially wonderful.

I wanted to make something extra special this year for Valentine’s Day. Something with a real “wow” factor. And I think soufflés are both romantic and impressive. It also turns out that they’re not terribly difficult. They are “a bit fussy”, as my daughter cautioned when I first mentioned making them, but it’s really a matter of just having your ingredients ready and going for it. Soufflés are best served immediately so take that into account when making them.

Basically you are making a sweetened meringue with a base component such as chocolate or fruit compote. The most difficult part is to not deflate the meringue when folding into your base mixture. The air whipped in the egg whites quickly loses volume when mixed too much. So use a very light touch in that. Also the soufflés will begin to deflate after a few minutes out of the oven which is why they’re best served right away.

I’m so excited to cross these off my baking bucket list. There’s something really exciting about making new things. If there’s one thing I hope you come away from my blog with, it’s to step out of your baking and cooking comfort zone. Dive into a new recipe or technique. And if it doesn’t turn out perfectly, don’t let it get you down. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!

I made two different versions of soufflés and while I prefer the chocolate over the banana, they both turned out equally great. Hopefully you’ll give at least one of them a try.

Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone! And Happy Birthday to my beloved Oregon! ♥️

Chocolate Soufflé For Two

3 egg whites, room temperature

1 egg yolk, room temperature

6 oz dark chocolate

1 Tbsp granulated sugar, plus extra for coating ramekins

A pinch kosher salt

1/4 cup half and half cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees if baking right away. Lightly coat 2 – 8 oz ramekins with cooking spray and generously sprinkle with granulated sugar. Set aside. In a small microwave safe bowl, combine chocolate and cream. Melt at 30 second intervals in microwave until smooth. Set aside to cool slightly. In a medium bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Set aside. Add egg yolk and salt to cooled chocolate mixture and stir to fully combine. Add 1/3 of beaten egg whites to chocolate mixture and carefully fold in. Then add rest of the egg whites and gently fold in until just combined. Do not overmix or it will cause the mixture to lose air and not rise as much. Divide mixture between both ramekins filling completely. Run your thumb around inner edge to create a small well between the ramekin and mixture. At this point filled ramekins can be held in the refrigerator until ready to bake, for a maximum of two hours. When ready to bake, place filled ramekins on a baking sheet and bake for 14-16 minutes. Do not open oven during baking as it may cause soufflés to deflate from the temperature change. Once they have risen considerably and are firm on top, remove from oven and sprinkle with powdered sugar or other garnish and serve immediately.

Banana Soufflés

2 medium bananas

1/4 cup half and half cream

A pinch of salt

1 tsp vanilla bean paste

2 Tbsp sugar, divided, plus extra for coating ramekins

1 egg yolk

3 egg whites

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat 2 – 8 oz ramekins lightly with non stick spray and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Set aside. In a medium bowl, mash bananas removing all lumps. Add egg yolk, salt, vanilla paste and 1 Tbsp sugar. Mix thoroughly. In another bowl beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Lightly fold 1/3 of egg whites into banana mixture and fully incorporate. Then add rest of egg whites and gently fold into mix. Pour into ramekins filling completely and smooth tops. Place on baking sheet and bake for 14-16 minutes. Remove when tops are sufficiently raised, lightly browned and firm. Garnish as desired and serve immediately.

Mardi Gras – Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler

Today is Mardi Gras, French for “Fat Tuesday”. It’s the last day to go all out with rich food and festivities before the start of Lent, a 6 week religious period of fasting and penance. Here in the United States the city that embraces this celebration more than any other is New Orleans.

I’ve never been there, but it’s on my bucket list, along with Washington DC and Glacier National Park. Someday…. I’ll get there. So for now I’m content to read about it and dream.

New Orleans has a restaurant called Cafe du Monde that is famous for their beignets. Opened in 1862, they serve them up year round 24/7 with their special blend of chickory coffee and cafe au lait. People rave about it and many drive ridiculous distances to have some. It’s located in the French Quarter part of the city and is a landmark and destination location. Lucky New Orleans!

Making beignets have been on my food bucket list for a long time and today I decided in honor of Mardi Gras, I was going to tackle it. So with pen, I finally crossed it off my list. I hope you give these a try. The recipe I made is for a small batch which I think is the perfect amount for this treat. One important thing to note – It’s a very soft and sticky dough to work with. You can find the recipe here https://www.dessertfortwo.com/a-small-batch-of-beignets/ And don’t wear black while enjoying them since they taste best warm and super coated in powdered sugar. Just a word of advice!

Get The Spam Out

Today is National Clean Out Your Computer Day. Time to get rid of all those lingering emails and files that are totally useless. How do we accumulate so much stuff? I’ll tell you how. Innocently signing up for a webpage or visiting a site momentarily and next thing you know, you’re inundated with information. Today it’s time to take charge. Delete and repeat.

Spam is defined as a canned meat product mainly made from pork and ham, but in recent times it’s also been defined as irrelevant or inappropriate messages sent to a large number of recipients. The food reference generally has been accepted to mean “spiced ham”. The internet reference refers to a Monty Python skit which references back to Spam the food product where something is repeated over and over and over. I guess you’ll have to google it. It’s pretty classic Monty Python humor!

So, here’s a little side note of trivial information about Spam the food. The Hormel company first came out with it in 1937. There are currently 13 varieties available and was first sold as a military food ration because of its long lasting packaging and ease of transport during WWII. Hawaii has an entire festival dedicated to all things Spam. They are the number one consumer of Spam, followed only by Korea.

Growing up, I remember having fried Spam sandwiches and Spam spread, something akin to deviled ham, but my mom didn’t get too creative beyond that. I never realized that entire cookbooks were dedicated to its popularity. My first taste of Spam musubi wasn’t until much, much later in life. And it was delicious!

There are special molds you can buy to make these delicious sushi style delights, but did you know that the can itself makes a perfect mold for musubi? Repurposing in its finest hour! I love it.

The recipe is simple. Lay the empty can over half a piece of nori. Add sushi rice and tamp down over nori inside empty can. Fry slices of Spam. Lay one piece of fried Spam over rice. Then layer more sushi rice over spam. Lift can and wrap nori around rice and spam, wet ends to seal nori together. Dip in soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, or Japanese hibachi yum yum sauce. Eat. Enjoy. Repeat. ♥️