Banana Snack Cake

Just about everyone likes a good banana. But when the skin of that yellow fruit that has its roots in the tropics and is a good source of potassium starts to turn brown, all bets are off for a lot of people. A lot of brown bananas get thrown away just because of their looks. Probably just as many overripe ones are tossed in banana bread, one of my favorites.

bananacakePersonally, I don’t mind brown bananas. And as a matter of fact, bananas that have started to turn brown are better for you than yellow or green ones. That’s unless you’re a diabetic.

You see, when bananas turn brown, the resistant starch has almost completely transformed into simple sugars. This can make your blood sugar spike much more quickly than if you eat a yellow or green banana. A ripe banana can contain almost 91 percent sugar. Diabetics should stick with unripe bananas.

On the plus side, a brown banana has a higher level of antioxidants than yellow or green, unripe bananas. It’s also easier to digest for people with digestive ailments, including irritable bowel and functional abdominal bloating.

One way to get around throwing out brown bananas is to use the in banana bread, like I do. Here are a couple of other recipes in which you can make use of ripe bananas.

The cake recipe is one Therese tried the other day. It was very tasty. The second came from former co-worker and friend Candace Decker, who originally hails from western North Dakota but now calls Ohio her home.

We haven’t tried Candace’s recipe yet, but it won’t be too far down the road when we do, since there are about a half-dozen ripe bananas in our freezer, which is a good place to keep them if you can’t use them immediately.

Banana Snack Cake
1 cup butter
2 eggs
½ cup buttermilk
1 cup sugar
1 cup ripe bananas (about 3 bananas)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 cup oatmeal
1½ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
6-ounce bag chocolate chips
Chopped nuts
Mix all of the ingredients and place in a 9-by-13-inch greased cake pan. Top mixture with nuts. Cook in a 350-degree preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes.

Banana Chocolate Chip Baked Oatmeal Singles
3 cups old-fashioned oats
½ cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 egg whites
1 egg
1¼ cup skim milk
¾ cup mashed bananas
1 teaspoon vanilla
¾ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Combine dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk other ingredients. Add together. Mix in chocolate chips. Spoon into muffin tin. Bake uncovered 18 to 22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Everyone-Will-Like Lasagna

First impressions can have a lasting effect. That’s why it’s always important to put on a good face when meeting someone for the first time.lasagna

The same goes for food. I remember the first time my mom fixed scalloped potatoes and ham. Just the smell of it made me gag. Whenever she made it, I never ate it. Even the scalloped potatoes we had for school hot lunch in the basement of the old Cathedral High School in Crookston, Minn., turned me off.

As soon as I started walking down the stairs to the lunchroom, the wafting of the scalloped potatoes and ham almost got me sick to my stomach. I never once ate the dish, which really puzzled my Auntie Helen – who was the head cook – since there wasn’t any other food that didn’t appeal to me.

We never had lasagna at school nor did my mom ever fix it, and I don’t recall the first time it crossed my palate, but it had a pretty positive effect.

I just love lasagna, no matter if it’s vegetarian or loaded with meat. I think the cheese has something to do with it.

Cheese is my downfall. If there is some in the refrigerator, cheese doesn’t last very long. Just recently, we purchased a couple of large chunks of cheese. One was Dubliner, the other sharp Cheddar. Both are gone.

Here are a couple of lasagna recipes that I really like. Both are my own creation. And both are extremely tasty, and everyone will like them.

Best-Ever Lasagna
1 pound ground beef
¾ pound ground pork
1 1-pound box lasagna noodles, cooked
2 6-ounce cans tomato sauce
2 14.5-ounce cans petite-diced tomatoes with garlic and olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 stalk celery, diced
6 tablespoons ketchup
½ cup red wine
2 tablespoons concentrated tomato paste
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon fennel seeds, ground
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 8-ounce packages grated mozzarella cheese (can be reduced fat)
1 15-ounce container ricotta cheese (can be part-skim)
1 22-ounce container cottage cheese (can be 2 percent)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Brown the meat in skillet and set aside.
In a large pot, saute onion, garlic and celery in olive oil. Add the tomatoes, sauce, paste and herbs and spices. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 30 minutes before adding meat, which has been drained.
Continue to simmer for about another 20 minutes or so.
Using a 9-by-13-inch baking dish (I prefer metal), cover the bottom with sauce and line the dish with a layer of lasagna noodles. Dot with spoonfuls of ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan and cottage cheese. Cover with sauce. Repeat with another layer of noodles, sauce and cheeses, until baking dish is almost filled.
Bake about 45 minutes. Cool 10 to 20 minutes before serving.

Vegetarian Lasagna
1 large eggplant, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 slices Swiss cheese
2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese
1 1-pound box lasagna noodles
1 large bell pepper, chopped
1 large onion, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1 14½-ounce can whole tomatoes
2 small zucchini squash, sliced
3 carrots, grated
½ cup red wine
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
Saute eggplant in olive oil until lightly brown. Set aside.
Combine sauce ingredients and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes.
Line an 8-by-11½-inch baking dish with cooked lasagna noodles. Top with a layer of eggplant, followed by sauce and Swiss cheese. Repeat layers of noodles, eggplant and sauce and top with Parmesan cheese.
Bake in 350-degree oven for 35 to 45 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes then cut and serve.

Mac ‘n’ Cheese with a Twist

There aren’t many kids around who don’t like macaroni and cheese. It doesn’t matter how picky they are, kids just love this dish.

maccheeseWhether it’s the kind that comes out of a box like the one from Kraft or your own homemade version, mac ‘n’ cheese is classic comfort food.

And it’s not just kids who love it. Take my friend and former co-worker, Ryan Bakken. He had an insatiable taste for macaroni and cheese.

When we lived together as students and Moorhead State University (now Minnesota State Moorhead) and later in Grand Forks as young sportswriters at the Herald, Ryan probably ate mac ‘n’ cheese at least three or four times a week. The reason? It was easy to make and tasted great.

While I didn’t quite share his penchant for mac ‘n’ cheese, it is a favorite of mine. Therese makes it ever so often, and on the rare occasion, so do I.

Recently, I made a variation of mac ‘n’ cheese using the following recipe, which was shared with my grandson. He absolutely loved it, as did I. It’s almost as easy to make as the boxed variety, and it tastes even better. Give it a try. I’m sure that you will agree.

Mac ‘n’ Cheese with a Twist
3 cups uncooked macaroni
½ cup butter
½ cup flour
2 cups milk
1 pound Cheddar cheese, shredded
1 10-ounce can diced tomatoes with green chilies
1 cup croutons
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook pasta as directed on package. Drain and set aside.
Melt butter over low heat. Stir in flour and cook 1 minute, stirring constantly until mixture is smooth and bubbly.
Stir in milk, and heat to boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer until thickened, about 1 minute.
Add cheese and tomatoes. Stir until cheese is melted, then remove from heat.
Stir macaroni into cheese sauce and then transfer to an ungreased 9-by-12-inch baking dish. Cover with croutons.
Bake uncovered 30 minutes or until heated through.
Yield: Serves 8.

Skillet Pork Chops with Mashed Potatoes

Ever wonder why pork chops are such a popular entry? Maybe it’s because they can be fried, grilled, roasted or even stuffed. And they can be cooked at relatively low temperatures because of improved breeding techniques.

porkchopsOne of my favorite ways to fix pork chops is in a barbecue sauce and cooked in a covered cast-iron pot inside my oven. But those prepared in a skillet, such as the following recipe, comes in a close second. Paired with some mashed potatoes and whole-kernel corn, this is a meal that I could eat at least once a week.

A nice sauce that contains half and half, sour cream, prepared mustard, red wine and Worcestershire sauce is great over the potatoes. And the mushrooms are an added bonus. So delicious.

Skillet Pork Chops with Mashed Potatoes
4 boneless pork chops
Kosher salt
and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 tablespoons butter
½ cup
sweet yellow onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
¼ cup red wine
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons prepared yellow mustard
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup half and half
¼ cup sour cream
Season chops on both sides with salt and pepper.
Heat a
large cast-iron skillet over medium heat until hot. Add 2 tablespoons butter.
chops on both sides, turning only once. Remove and keep warm.
Saute the onions and garlic for 1 minute in the drippings. Add 2 tablespoons butter and mushrooms. Saute until mushrooms have released their liquid and are cooked through.
Add wine, Worcestershire sauce and mustard, stirring to
incorporate bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook about 3 minutes. Return chops to the pan, cover and simmer about 5 minutes. Remove pork and keep warm.
To the sauce, add ½ teaspoon salt (or to taste), along with h
alf and half. Cook until liquid reduces and slightly thickens. Whisk in sour cream until smooth. Taste and adjust salt and pepper, if needed. Return chops to skillet, along with any accumulated juices, to warm through. Serve with mashed potatoes.
Yield: Serves 4.