Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Banana Nut Friendship Bread


So I sort of allowed my one yeast baggie to grow into twelve and I’ve been forced to bake pretty much every day to keep them from taking over the kitchen. The original Friendship Bread recipe leaves a lot of room for experimentation so I decided to tackle banana nut bread. I substituted bananas in for liquid and made a few other changes and surprisingly enough, it worked! I’m trying new versions for scones and chocolate chocolate chip bread this week too. Once I perfect those puppies, I’ll record the recipes for you Sarah (or anyone else who wants them!) so you can have a bunch of options when you get your starter. ;) I’ve found that the longer you allow your yeast to grow the more your baked goods rise when cooked. If you use a starter right when you split it, the final version doesn’t have that awesome fluffy bread-like quality. So wait! Ignore my previous post’s instructions and use a starter when it’s at least 5 days old. Okay, so on to Banana Nut Friendship Bread!


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease two non metal loaf pans with butter and sprinkle all the sides with cinnamon sugar (1/4 cup sugar plus 1 tsp cinnamon).


In a non-metal bowl smash 2 large bananas (or 3 smallish ones). To that add an aged yeast starter, 2 eggs, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 cup oil, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1 cup sugar, 2 cups flour, 1 box of instant banana (or vanilla or white chocolate) pudding mix, and 1 cup chopped walnuts. Mix with a non-metal spoon until just combined.


Pour your batter into the prepared pans so they are no more than 3/4 full. Sprinkle the tops liberally with cinnamon sugar. Pop them in the oven for 50 minutes to 1 hour and 20 minutes or until the tops are golden brown and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. The length of baking time will vary greatly depending on the size and shape of your loaf pans so keep an eye on them! Cool and invert the pan over a plate and the bread should slide right out. Slice and enjoy!

Banana Nut Friendship Bread

  • Friendship Yeast Bread Starter (Mine was about 5 days old)
  • 2 large bananas (mashed)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1 box instant pudding (banana, vanilla, or white chocolate)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup roughly chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease two non metal loaf pans with butter and sprinkle all the sides with cinnamon sugar (1/4 cup sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon). Combine all ingredients in a non-metal bowl with a non-metal spoon. Pour the batter into your prepared pans so they are about 3/4 full (less is okay, more is NOT). Sprinkle the tops with more cinnamon sugar and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour and 20 minutes or until the tops are nice and brown and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. The baking time will vary depending on your pan size and shape so you just have to keep an eye on them and allow them to bake until the bread is totally set. When the loaves are done, remove from the oven and cool until you can handle them. Invert a pan over a plate and slide the bread out. Slice and enjoy!


Thursday, March 25, 2010

Blueberry Friendship Muffins


My buddy Ted recently gave me a ziplock bag full of a sloppy yeast mixture he swore turned into the most delicious bread he’d ever eaten- Friendship Bread. I was skeptical, but Ted was true to his word and this bread was amazing. It’s not really bread, it’s more like a cake. The key is to have this yeast mixture which is fed and grown by each person who receives it (I’m saving one for you when you come up here for Picnic Day Sarah!).  You allow your baggie to sit at room temperature and ferment for 10 days. At the end of the cycle you put your slightly smelly yeast mixture into a non-metal bowl along with 1.5 c sugar, 1.5 c flour, and 1.5 c milk and mix with a non-metal spoon. Portion that new mix out into 4 ziplock bags (about 1 cup each) and give three to friends. With the remaining portion you can make friendship bread!


In a non-metal bowl mix together one of your newly split yeast mixtures plus 3 eggs, 1 cup oil, 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 tsp salt,                  1 1/2 tsp vanilla, 2 tsp cinnamon, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder,               1/2 tsp baking soda, 2 cups flour, 1 cup sugar, and 1 large box instant pudding (try vanilla first).


Gently fold in 1 lb frozen blueberries (you can substitute anything else here that you want, like nuts, dry fruit, chocolate chips, etc).


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 or 3 cupcake trays with paper liners (this recipe makes about 30 muffins). You could also grease those cupcake trays with butter and then sprinkle them with cinnamon sugar (1/4c sugar plus 1 tsp cinnamon) but I was mistrustful of this because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get the muffins out. :) Fill the trays almost completely full and sprinkle the tops with cinnamon sugar. Pop them in the oven for 45 minutes or until the muffins are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool and enjoy!

Blueberry Friendship Muffins

  • 1 freshly split cup (or so) of yeast mixture
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 c oil
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 c flour
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1 large box instant pudding (vanilla is a good choice)
  • 1 lb frozen blueberries
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 or 3 cupcake trays with paper liners (makes about 30 muffins).
  2. Combine all ingredients (except the blueberries) in a non-metal bowl and mix with a non-metal spoon. Gently fold in the blueberries.
  3. Fill each cupcake liner almost completely full. Mix 1/4c sugar with 1 tsp cinnamon to make cinnamon sugar. Sprinkle each muffin with a bit of cinnamon sugar.
  4. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes or until the muffins are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  5. Cool and enjoy!


Friday, March 12, 2010

Italian Egg Soup


We’re almost into spring up here, but the weather has been fickle and vacillating back and forth between blue skies and warm weather to cold, gray, rainy days. I wanted something warm a few days ago and Italian Egg Soup totally fit the bill. This soup is a take on a classic Italian dish called “stracciatella” which is taken from the Italian word stracciato meaning “torn apart.” This is a direct reference to the way the eggs are cooked in the dish. At the very end of the cooking process you whisk in some lightly beaten eggs which transform the soup from brothy to creamy, flecked with little feathery egg bits that melt in your mouth and give the soup a curiously thick and luscious taste. The original recipe is really light, usually only comprised of chicken broth, herbs, and eggs. This recipe is much heartier and really flavorful while still being extremely healthy. I thought it was a really filling dinner (with a side of french bread), but Tony caved about half an hour after inhaling his soup and ate a couple of turkey dogs. I think his body wanted more calories- there are like 200 in one bowl of soup. This is basically delicious diet food. :)


Begin by heating 6 cups of chicken (or veggie) broth and 2 cups of water in a covered medium sized soup pot. In the meantime,  chop one bunch of green onions (chives, scallions, whatever) separating your white ends from your greens. Add the white ends to the broth as well as a washed 15 ou can of cannellini (white kidney) beans and 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg. Let this mix come to a boil and then reduce it to a simmer. Add 2 cups of whole wheat Rotini pasta and simmer uncovered for about half as long as the box says to cook the pasta, or about 4 minutes. I really love whole wheat for this because it’s super healthy, has a great nutty flavor, and it’s sturdy enough to retain some bite after sitting in warm soup for a long time.


While the soup is simmering, grab about 4 leaves of mustard greens (or as much of some other light tasting, leafy green lettuce-style veggie to produce about 3 cups of chopped greens). Remove the tough middle stem and stack the leaves on top of each other to prepare for a chiffonade cut. Roll them like you’re trying to make a long tube (it kind of looks like a cigar) and then, starting on one end of the tube, slice down to make a ring about as thick as your finger is wide and move all the way down your tube making this cut. It’s easy if you keep your knife tip on the board and your most distal knuckles acting as a guiding cut point for the broad side of your knife. Set the greens aside and lightly beat 6 eggs in a cup.


After about 4 minutes of boiling toss in your mustard greens and allow them to wilt for about a minute.


Stream the beaten eggs into the soup while whisking vigorously. The liquid changes from a clear, brown broth to a lighter, cloudier soup. The egg bits should settle into small, feathery pieces when they cook. Allow the soup to simmer for 2 minutes, then remove from the heat. Add about 1/4 tsp black pepper, 4 tbsp lemon juice, and all of the green tops from the onions. Adjust for taste.


Ladle the soup into some bowls and top with freshly grated parmesan cheese. This soup would go really well with some crusty french bread or garlic bread and maybe a Cesar salad. I hope you try it!

Italian Egg Soup

  • 6 cups chicken or veggie broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 15 ounce can Cannellini beans, washed
  • 1 bunch green onions, diced, whites and greens separated
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 cups whole wheat Rotini pasta
  • 3 cups chopped mustard greens
  • 6 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 4 tbsp lemon juice
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese to taste

In a covered medium pot bring the broth, water, beans, onion whites, and nutmeg to a boil. Uncover and reduce to a simmer. Add the pasta and cook for half as long as the box instructions direct you to, or about 4 minutes. As the pasta boils, chop your greens chiffonade-style and lightly beat your eggs in a cup.

Add your mustard greens to the pot and let them wilt in the soup for about a minute. While whisking constantly, stream in the beaten eggs (they should look like little feathery strands as they set). Allow the soup to cook for another 2 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and mix in the pepper and lemon juice. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Serve with french bread or garlic bread. Enjoy and remember you can easily mix up these ingredients!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Braised Lamb Shanks

This is an adaptation of a Gordon Ramsey recipe (1). I was impressed at how easy it was to make. I thought his recipes would be challenging and involved, but it was just fantastic, not hard. He says that the the shank is one of the easier cuts of lamb to cook and I can attest that this recipe was simple yet SO delicious that I found myself licking the sauce directly from the pan. It is possible that the sauce is the tastiest thing I have ever cooked. And that's saying a lot, because I have definitely cooked some impressive meals.

First you heat some olive oil in a large pan. Then you season the lamb shanks and brown them all over in the oil, then remove from the pan and set aside. This takes about 5-8 minutes per shank. I cook 2 shanks at a time and they turned out just fine.

After browning the shanks add a little olive oil, add the chopped vegetables, garlic, herbs and anise, and cook gently until browned. Pour in the wine and cook until it has reduced down to a syrup. Put the shanks back into the pan and pour on the stock. Season to taste.

Cover the pan and cook gently for 2½-3 hours until the meat is tender and falls off the bone.

About 30 minutes before the end of the cooking time, make the parsnips. Though this recipe is easy to make and yummy to eat, it takes quite a long time. By the end I was hungry and tired and so I decided to opt out of puréeing the parsnips and just sauted them instead. The whole thing was totally worth all the time I put in to it. I did not feel let down, but I do think that next time I will purée the parsnips, just to taste the recipe the way it was conceived.

Melt the butter in a frying pan over a low heat and cook the parsnips until completely soft and falling apart (about 25 minutes).

Remove the lamb shanks from the liquid and put in the oven to keep warm.

Now for the sauce! This sauce is amazing. It is so good that I would eat it with anything I possibly could. Even if there were nothing else there I would eat it plain by itself. In fact, there were leftovers after this meal, but I was out of bread to sop up the sauce. So, instead of bread I used tortilla chips. It was ghetto, but so good.

After you remove the shanks strain the stock and pour it back into the pan. and cook over a high heat until it forms a sauce consistency.

Serve each shank over the parsnips, and pour over the sauce. Eat and all your wildest foodie dreams will come true.


Olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 small lamb shanks
1 carrot, roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 leek, roughly chopped
1 celery stick, roughly chopped
½ a head of garlic
A sprig of fresh thyme
1 bay leaf/a sprig of fresh rosemary/2 star anise 300ml dry white wine
1l chicken stock
100g butter
4 large parsnips, peeled and chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Extracted from Kitchen Heaven by Gordon Ramsay, published by Michael Joseph on May 6 at £20, © Optomen Television and Gordon Ramsay, 2004.