You are in desperate need of a coffee. You head to the cupboard to grab some filters—but they are not there. You can feel the panic rising as you look in another cupboard, then another. Finally, success…there they are right next to the Cheese Whiz. That’s funny, you didn’t put them there. You breathe a sigh of relief as the coffee brews. Now, just grab a mug and…what the hell, where are the mugs?
I’m sure that this is the scenario (or one very similar) that played out many years ago for my mom. I had just started my first full-time professional job (the one where I met Eva of Kitchen Inspirations) and I had moved in with mom so that I could get my financial feet on the ground. First thing I did was completely rearrange her kitchen.
Need I point out that she wasn’t impressed? Mom was particularly upset when she discovered that several of the items she needed hadn’t just been “relocated”—they’d been thrown in the garbage. I’d like to blame it on my youth—the verve of my adventurous twenties—but I can’t.
I’m just that way. I like to switch things up. You know, make them my own. I know that I’m destined to get what’s coming to me one day soon, as I have two very spirited and strong-willed ponytails.
But until then, I continue to switch things up—particularly with my mom’s recipes. This time, it’s her much-loved banana bread recipe. (It has quite a following with the after-church social crowd at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church.) Although, this time I don’t think she will be mad at me—I didn’t throw anything out.
Mom’s Original Banana Bread
- 1-½ cups all purpose flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 3 ripe bananas, mashed
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- ¼ unsalted butter, melted
- 1 tsp vanilla
- Mix dry ingredients (flour, salt and baking soda) in small bowl and set aside.
- Mix wet ingredients (bananas, sugar, egg, butter and vanilla) in large bowl. Add dry ingredients and mix well.
- Pour batter into greased loaf pan.
- Bake at 350° for 45 – 50 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
#1 Switch Up: Whole Wheat Butterscotch Banana Bread
- Replace 1-½ cups all purpose flour with ¾ cup of all purpose flour and ¾ whole wheat flour.
- Add ½ cup butterscotch chips after completing step 2 in directions for Mom’s Original Banana Bread and mix well.
- Follow steps 3 and 4 of same directions.
#2 Switch Up: Marbled Chocolate and Peanut Butter Banana Bread
- Prepare Mom’s Original Banana Bread batter.
- Divide batter in half, placing second half in a new bowl.
- Add 2 tbsps of peanut butter to first half of batter and mix well.
- Add 2-½ tbsps cocoa powder to second half of batter and mix well
- Pour chocolate batter in half of greased loaf pan.
- Then, pour peanut butter batter in other half of greased pan.
- Using a knife or skewer, pull and swirl chocolate batter through peanut butter batter until you are happy with the marbled effect.
- Bake at 350° for 45 – 50 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Ever notice how simple foods can be extraordinarily good? Think of the way a margherita pizza makes you feel. Fresh and bursting with flavor—it delights us in its simplicity.
Now if I’d said Greek Bean Soup instead of margherita pizza, you likely would have stared at your screen saying “okay, whatever Barb” because chances are it’s not a soup that’s on your radar. But…that may change, if you open your mind to this simple and tasty soup.
I’ve been making this soup quite frequently ever since I discovered it in my Three Sisters Around the Greek Table cookbook. The ponytails love it and it is easy to make—it just takes some time to cook, and you need plan ahead and soak the beans overnight. It is a very healthy vegetarian meal and boy is it budget friendly.
This bean soup, also called Fassolada or fasolada, can be traced back to ancient Greece and is referred to in many cookery books as the traditional Greek dish. Apparently ancient Greeks devoted a whole day to the celebration of fassolada. (As much as I do like the soup, a day devoted to it is way over the top. But hey, after several glasses of ouzo anything is possible.) For many Greek cooks, such as my friend Kerassia (my authority on all things Greek, whom I’ve mentioned before), fassolada is a weekly staple in their kitchen.
There are likely as many versions of this soup, as there are cooks. I’ve changed the soup extensively from the Three Sisters’ version — but I must attribute adding the potato and pureeing it with a cup of the soup to this cookbook.
Greek Bean Soup
- 1-½ cups navy beans, dried (or medium white greek beans)
- 6-½ cups water
- 3 carrots, diced
- 3 celery stalks, diced
- 1 medium onion, minced
- 1 pinch red pepper flakes
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 small potato, peeled
- 2 tbsps olive oil
- 1-½ cups crushed tomato sauce
- 1- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp oregano (preferably greek)
- chopped fresh parsley
- crumbled feta cheese
- lemon wedges
- Place the beans in a bowl, cover completely with water, and let them soak overnight.
- Drain and rinse beans. Place in a large stock pot and cover with water. Bring to boil over high heat for 10 minutes.
- Drain beans in a strainer and return to pot. Add water, carrots, celery, onion, red pepper flakes, potato and bay leaf. Bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes.
- Remove bay leaf and add tomato sauce, salt and olive oil and cook for another 45 minutes to 1 hour (until beans are tender).
- Place potato and 1 cup of soup in a bowl and puree with hand blender until smooth. Return puree to the pot and stir.
- Taste and adjust seasoning, if required.
- Serve in bowls and sprinkle with feta, parsley and a squeeze of lemon (optional).
- After talking to Kerassia, and researching the best way to cook beans, I discovered that the key to softening the beans is to not add tomato (because of the acidity) or salt until they are almost cooked.
- I replace the navy beans with medium white greek beans that I buy at a local shop here in Toronto called Ararat International Fine Foods. They are quite a bit larger than navy beans and a great option if you can find them.
- Kerassia doesn’t add the potato (and puree it with the cup of soup). You can eliminate the potato and this step if you prefer.
For the past several summers, we’ve rented a beachfront cottage at Turkey Point, Lake Erie. Turkey Point is a lovely little beach town with a long stretch of beach and shallow water, which is great for young kids. One of the first things that we do after we arrive and get settled is make the two-minute walk to Grandma’s Ice Cream for some Moose Tracks Ice Cream. It’s a big family favorite and I look forward to it every year. (Okay simple things make me happy.)
I’ve been baking with mini peanut butter cups for the past few weeks and I keep trying to come up with new ways to use them. It didn’t take long for my thoughts to turn to Turkey Point and my favorite ice cream. Wouldn’t it make a great ice cream pie? I made it a couple of times, tweaking things each time and landed on this version. It’s quite addictive—especially if you LOVE peanut butter cups.
Moose Tracks Ice Cream Pie
- 1-1/2 cups crushed chocolate wafers (33/34 wafers finely crushed in a food processor)
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
- 1-1/4 cups mini peanut butter cups
- 3 oz semi-sweet chocolate
- 6 cups vanilla ice cream
- 5 tbsp chocolate syrup homemade (see below) or store-bought
- If making homemade chocolate syrup, make it first using the recipe below and refrigerate until well chilled.
- Mix the chocolate wafers and melted butter until moistened. Press firmly into bottom and up the sides of a glass 9-inch pie plate. Refrigerate for 30 minutes until firm.
- Chop the peanut butter cups (in half or quarters pending size) and 2 oz of the semi-sweet chocolate in chunks and set aside.
- Drizzle half of the chocolate syrup on the bottom of the chocolate crust (2-1/2 tbsp)
- Let ice cream sit at room temperature for 5 minutes. Measure ice cream into a large bowl and mix in peanut butter cups and chocolate chunks until well incorporated.
- Add half of the ice cream mixture to the pie crust and flatten down with a spoon.
- Drizzle remaining half of chocolate syrup over ice cream.
- Carefully add remaining ice cream and flatten down with a spoon.
- Grate the remaining 1 oz of chocolate over the top of the pie until well covered. (You won’t likely need the whole ounce of chocolate–I used less than 1/2.)
- Cover with plastic wrap.
- Freeze until firm (about 3 hours).
- Serve with chocolate syrup drizzled on top or on plate.
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup light corn syrup
- 1/2 cup water
- 6 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Whisk together the sugar, corn syrup, water, and cocoa in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat until boiling, stirring frequently, then let boil for a minute. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Cover and refrigerate.
- The Fudge Ripple chocolate sauce was REALLY easy to make. The recipe makes quite a bit more than you’ll need, but you can use the left-over syrup to make chocolate milk and ice cream sundaes (with sprinkles of course). It keeps in the fridge for a week or two.
- I used Mr. Christie chocolate wafers to make the crust — one package is plenty, with a few wafers left over.
- This is best made the day before you want to serve it.
While you may not need it today, tomorrow, or next week, there’s nothing more valuable in your cooking repertoire than a back pocket meal. At any given time, and with only a moment’s notice, you always have the ingredients on-hand for a back pocket meal—and it can be prepared easily and quickly.
One of my most trusted back pocket meals is my Ham and Broccoli No-Crust Quiche. It takes five minutes of prep time, 30 minutes to bake and the ponytails never seem to tire of it.
I first had a Bisquick-style chicken quiche for lunch at my friend Judy’s in Edmonton several years back. I asked her for the recipe and she said it was “on the box.” I played around with the original recipe quite a bit, replacing the Bisquick with an easy substitute—and voilà, my Ham and Cheese No-Crust Quiche was born.
If you have a really crazy weeknight—like our Wednesday night, where we have 15 minutes to get in the door and eat before my 6-year old ponytail has to leave for Sparks—you can make the quiche earlier in the week and reheat it in the microwave. (Since it only takes five minutes of prep, this isn’t hard to do.) Your ride home from work will be stress-free, knowing that you have dinner in your back pocket!
Ham and Broccoli No-Crust Quiche
- 1 small shallot, chopped
- 1 cup milk
- 1 ham steak, diced (approx. 175 g.)
- 4 eggs
- ½ cup shredded cheese (Monterey Jack, Cheddar, Swiss or Marble—or a combination of 2 or more cheeses)
- ¾ cup broccoli, chopped (frozen or fresh)
- 1 cup flour
- 1-1/2 tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 tbsp canola oil (or melted butter)
- ½ tsp thyme (dried)
- Salt and pepper to taste.
- Preheat oven to 400°.
- Spray a 9” pie plate with cooking spray.
- In a large bowl, mix the chopped shallot, milk, eggs, cheese (reserve a couple tbsps for the top), broccoli, and ham with a whisk.
- In a small bowl, mix flour, baking powder, salt and canola oil until fully combined.
- Add dry ingredients to your egg mixture—and mix well with your whisk.(A magic whisk works well.)
- Pour mixture into pie plate. Sprinkle remaining cheese, thyme, salt and pepper on top.
- Bake for 30 minutes.
- I always keep a ham steak and frozen broccoli in my freezer. The rest of the ingredients are staples that I always have in. That’s what makes this a back pocket meal for me. (It can easily be made without the shallots if you don’t have any in.)
- If using frozen broccoli, be sure to thaw it before adding to your quiche. It thaws quickly in warm water.
- The flour, baking powder, salt and canola oil combined can be used a substitution for one cup of Bisquick. However, it must be kept in the fridge.