Sunday, December 12, 2010

Favorite Banana Bread

Sweet quick breads are a great way to make sweet treats for the holidays. They are easily made ahead and frozen. I wrap mine well and keep in the cold garage. When I had a screened in porch I kept them in a cooler out there. I usually cut mine in half at least. I like to put out trays of a variety of flavors when I have guests over for a meal or even when it's just light refreshments. I alternate slices of different colors, usually pumpkin, chocolate and banana.

Banana Bread
1 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dry oatmeal
1/2 cup stick margarine
1 cup brown sugar
2 over ripe bananas, mashed
2 eggs, beaten

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir in oatmeal. In a large bowl cream margarine and brown sugar. Stir in bananas then eggs until well blended. Gradually stir in dry ingredients until just blended. Pour into a well greased  9X5X3 inch loaf pan. Bake at 350F for one hour or until testing done. Poke a toothpick into center of loaf and if it comes out clean or just with just a couple of crumbs sticking to it, the loaf is done. Cool in pan on a wire rack about 30 minutes. Remove from pan to rack to finish cooling before wrapping for storage.

I always use stick margarine for this recipe so the flavor of the bananas is predominant. Butter could be substituted for the margarine.


Prepare your favorite pound cake recipe or use a pound cake mix. Stir in 1 cup of halved red and green candied cherries to the batter before baking. OR use 1 cup chopped candied fruit mix.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Better Beef Stew

I really like using my slow cooker for days I'm pressed for time but want a hot home cooked meal to come home to. Yesterday I did not start my beef stew in time for the slow cooker to do it's thing in time for dinner. I will say I got a very rich tasting stew on the stove top. May not go back to making this particular dish the cook all day way.

1 1/4 lb.s beef cut for stew ( I used organic, very lean)
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon each: ground savory, ground pepper, garlic powder and dried thyme
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup dry red wine or water
6 small red or white potatoes, quartered
1 large carrot sliced in 1 inch diagonal slices
2 stalks celery, sliced in 1 inch diagonal slices
1 large yellow onion, peeled and cut into wedges
8 oz. fresh mushrooms, cut in half if large
1, 14.5 oz. reduced sodium beef broth.

Mix seasoning into flour. Dredge beef cubes in flour. In a heavy skillet, heat oil over medium high heat. Brown beef cubes on two sides. Place beef in a 4 quart pot. Deglaze skillet with wine and pour into pot. Add remaining ingredients to pot. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cover pot and simmer 90 minutes.
Remove lid. Bring to a boil and boil, stirring occasionally until liquid is reduced by half, about 20 minutes. Serves 4.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Easy Cookies

My occupation has become very demanding and I am not finding energy for my usual holiday baking.
Here are a couple of short cut cookies I plan to make. They make small batches. I have a small household and don't want a lot of leftovers after the guests have gone home.

I use 17.5 oz. packages of sugar cookie mix and follow the directions on the package for cut out cookies. I then frost and decorate them. That's the fun part of cut outs and the flavor of the mix is just fine.

I'll make a batch of this easy frosting this weekend. It will keep in the refrigerator for about 3 months. I'll use a lot for Christmas but have enough for cookies for Super Bowl party and for Valentine's Day cookies.

2 cup shortening
1/2 cup dry non dairy creamer
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
32 oz. confectioner's sugar
1/2 to 3/4 cups water

In a large mixing bowl beat shortening, dry creamer and vanilla. Gradually beat in sugar. Add enough water until frosting has the desired consistency. Store in the refrigerator. Bring the amount needed for your batch of cookies to room temperature. This spreads easier at room temperature. Food coloring can be added to the batch before spreading. Holiday colored sprinkles stick well to this frosting.

I use a 17.5 oz package of sugar cookie mix prepared according to the package directions. At the end I stir in 2 teaspoons lemon extract and 1 cup chopped pecans. I then bake them according to package directions for drop cookies.

These are fun red and green cookies:
3/4 cup butter
1, 4 oz. package pistachio instant pudding mix.
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup shelled pistachios or chopped almonds
Candied red cherries cut in half

Preheat oven to 375 F. In a small mixing bowl, cream butter and pudding mix. Stir in flour. Fold in nuts. Roll into 1 1/2 inch balls. Place balls 2 inches apart on a greased baking sheet. Flatten to 1/2 inch with bottom of a greased drinking glass. Press a cherry half in the middle of each. Bake 10 to 13 minutes until lightly browned on the edge. Remove to a wire rack or brown paper sacking to cool. Makes 2 dozen.