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.

Prime Rib Vegetable Noodle Soup

Turkey or ham is a well-established meat choice for family get-togethers during the holiday season. But another that has gained popularity is prime rib or standing rib roast.

beefsoupA prime rib  or standing rib roast is cut from the back of the upper rib section of a steer. It is the choicest meat that you can find on the animal.

We’ve always been a turkey or ham family, but this year decided on going with a roast. So, I ventured out to L&M Meat in Grand Forks in search of a nice cut.

Owner Jeff Novak steered me in the right direction and recommended about a 6-pound roast and gave me directions on how to fix it. I opted to have L&M season the meat with a prime rib rub, and the result was fantastic.

We had a nice bit of leftovers, which I froze to fix at a later date, but the rib bones, which were loaded with nice meat, were put in a soup pot with a bunch of leftover and fresh veggies, some pasta a bit of vegetable broth. And once again, it provided us with another wonderful meal.

The soup, the recipe for which follows, is a wonderful way to used your leftovers and perhaps enjoy a little lower-caloric entree.

Prime Rib Vegetable Noodle Soup
Prime rib bones with attached meat from roast
8 cups broth
2 cups carrots, sliced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 onion, diced
1 cup whole-kernel corn
2 small leftover baked potatoes, cubed
2 tablespoons concentrated  tomato paste
1 cup tomato juice
2 cups cooked pasta
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all the ingredients in stock pot and cook for 1 to 2 hours. Remove meat from bones and discard bones. Return meat to pot and serve.

Mom’s Sugar Cookies

Everybody welcomes homemade goodies, especially when they are from their moms. And it doesn’t get any better than cookies.

sugarcookiesWe used to be the recipients of cookies often when my mom was still alive. She loved to bake and share her treats. We always relished her homemade chocolate chip cookies. But my favorites were her sugar cookies.

Since her passing last year, I’ve started to try some of her recipes. But one I hadn’t tried until recently was the one for sugar cookies.

My first batch turned out pretty good, and I’m sure there will be more in the not-too-distant future. They weren’t quite as good as Mom’s, but they will have to do.

Mom’s Sugar Cookies
1 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 egg
½ tablespoon milk
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
Mix ingredients and then roll into balls, which you then dip in sugar. Place on baking sheet and put in 350-degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes.

Hershey Dream Bars

Baking is a holiday tradition for a lot of families. And that’s where many precious memories have their roots.

hershdreamCookies, bars and the like were always abundant at our house when I was growing up. My mom used to spend hours baking in the weeks that led up to Christmas. And she was very good at it.

Mo  had a good teacher, my Grandma Menard. I can think of at least a half-dozen types of sweets that Mom used to make during the holidays that she learned how to make from my grandma. Among them were divinity, penoche, rolled butter cookies and date bars.

Perhaps my favorite, though, were the Hershey Dream Bars, which were nothing more than sugar and chocolate. (How couldn’t something like that be good?)

I’ve been busy this past week or so, trying my hand at holiday baking. I’ve made Peanut Butter Blossoms, the recipe for which you can find on my blog, as well as date bars and, of course, the Dream Bars.

If you’re a chocolate connoisseur like me, give the following recipe a try. I’m sure you’ll love it!

Hershey Dream Bars
1 cup brown sugar
1 cups shortening (butter or margarine)
1 egg yolk
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 or 7 Hershey milk chocolate bars
Mix sugar and shortening. Add egg yolk, flour and vanilla. Mix well. Press into a 9-by-13-inch pan.
Bake at 375 degrees until brown, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and place Hershey bars on top. Spread the melting chocolate, entirely covering pans contents.
Sprinkle with nuts, if desired.
Cool and cut into bars.
Yield: About 16 bars.

Easy Meatball Stroganoff

It’s hard to think of any other food that’s more versatile than meatballs. They go with all kinds of dishes.

meatballstroganoffOf course, there’s spaghetti and meatballs in tomato or marinara sauce. How about Swedish meatballs. Or meatballs in a white sauce with pasta.

One of my favorites is Meatball Stroganoff. That’s what we had the other night with buttercup squash and whole-kernel corn.

One of the nice things about this dish is that the meatball recipe, which can be made ahead of time, is large enough so you can freeze some for later use.

Easy Meatball Stroganoff
2 10¾-ounce cans condensed cream of mushroom soup
¼ pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
½ cup milk
12 cooked (recipe follows)
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
|2 tablespoons ketchup
2 ounces tomato paste
1 16-ounce package egg noodles, cooked according to package directions
In a soup pot, combine soup, mushrooms, and milk; cook over medium heat until hot.
Add spices, ketchup and tomato paste. Reduce heat to low, stir in meatballs, and continue cooking for 10 to 15 minutes.
Stir in sour cream and cook 3 to 5 minutes, or until mixture is heated through. Serve over warm cooked egg noodles.

2 pounds ground chuck
½ pound ground pork
2 cups Italian bread crumbs
4 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
½ cup
Parmesan cheese, grated
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 onion, minced
½ cup pine nuts (optional)
Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix thoroughly. Let stand 1/2 hour. Shape into medium-sized meatballs. Fry gently in olive oil until lightly browned, or place on foil cookie sheet and bake for ½ hour at 350 degrees. Gently place in your own sauce and cook on medium for 1 hour.
Yield: 25 to 30 meatballs.

Peanut Butter Blossoms

Nothing goes together like peanut butter and chocolate. And a holiday favorite of many is a perfect example.

pbbnewPeanut Butter Blossoms are an exquisite cookie. I’ve always been fond of them, since they were one of the many cookies and bars that  my mom made for the Christmas season.

Here’s her recipe, which I found recently when going through a couple of recipe boxes. It’s one of several I plan on sharing the next couple of weeks.

Peanut Butter Blossoms 
1¾ cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup shortening
½ cup peanut butter
½ cup white sugar
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 unbeaten egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
Sift flour and add soda and salt. Set aside.
Gradually mix shortening and peanut butter together and then cream. Add sugars and cream again. Add egg and vanilla; beat well. Add dry ingredients and mix well.
Round dough by the teaspoon into balls, roll in sugar and place on greased baking sheet. Bake at 375 for 10 minutes.
Remove from oven and top each one with a Hershey’s candy kiss.
Press down firmly so cookie cracks around the edges. Return cookies to oven and bake for 2 to 5 minutes longer.

Chicken Barley Soup

It’s not very often a family of four can polish off a whole roast chicken in one sitting. What that means is there will be lot of leftovers.

chickensoupA cold chicken sandwich with a little mayo or Miracle Whip is pretty tasty, but if you’re up for something a little more substantial, soup is a great option.

Combining some of the leftover chicken with pearled barley and a pile of veggies is a hearty meal in itself as well as being quite nutritious.

Chicken Barley Soup
2 cups cooked chicken
1 cup pearled barley
4 carrots, sliced
1 cup frozen peas
2 cups green beans
1 onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 cup whole-kernel corn
4 cups chicken broth
4 cups water or stock
½ teaspoon ground coriander
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients and cook on low to medium heat for about 2 hours or until vegetables are thoroughly cooked.