Chocolate Banana Bread

WIN_20151030_185933This Chocolate Banana Bread is absolutely luscious. Dense and full flavored, this bread works equally well as a breakfast food and a dessert. The trick is to use very ripe bananas. If the skins aren’t black, wait another day or two. Any green on the skin? Don’t even think about it – even a speck of green means that your bananas aren’t ripe at all, let alone ripe enough for this recipe. Patience, friends. Patience.

WIN_20151030_173516Ingredients (Makes 2 loaves, approximately 12 slices per loaf)

4 very ripe bananas (skins should be black)

2 eggs

1/2 cup cooking oil

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon almond extract

2 small (3.9 oz) packages instant chocolate pudding

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 cups flour

1/4 cup milk

WIN_20151030_173902Directions

Step 1) Grease and flour two loaf pans. Set aside.

Step 2) Use a pastry cutter or two forks to thoroughly mash bananas in a large mixing bowl. Add eggs, oil, sugar, and almond extract. Mix well.

Step 3) Stir in chocolate pudding mix, baking powder, salt, and flour. Mixture will be very stiff.

Step 4) Add milk, one tablespoon at a time, until chocolate banana bread mixture spreads easily with your mixing spoon (more like brownie batter, less like cookie dough). I added a total of 4 tablespoons, or 1/4 cup of milk. You may need a bit more or less, depending upon the size and ripeness of the bananas you used.

Step 5) Spread chocolate banana bread batter into loaf pans. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 50 – 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Step 6) Cool loaves on a wire rack and enjoy!

WIN_20151030_190245

Fun Variation: Feeling creative? Try experimenting with pudding mix in other flavors. You might try vanilla pudding mix with vanilla extract instead of the almond extract. Or, you might try pistachio pudding with a few coarsely chopped pistachio nuts sprinkled onto the top of each loaf just before baking. If you try a variation on this Chocolate Banana Bread recipe, I’d love to hear about it!

Happy baking!

 

Early Holiday Gift Special!

*** November 16th – 30th Only ***

Early Holiday Gift Special!

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

Purchase a signed copy of How to Bake a Chocolate Soufflé ($11.99) using the PayPal link above,

and receive a FREE set of European Bakery Notecards with your order!

Bavarian Apple Pastry

Bavarian Apple Pastry

Belgian Dipped Cookies

Belgian Dipped Cookies

Dutch Stroopwafel

Dutch Stroopwafel

French Bread Basket

French Bread Basket

How to Bake a Chocolate Souffle Blue Cover

Forget what your English professor told you – life stories are not written in college.

Madeleine LaBlange, Annie Anderson, and Audrey Navarro shared formative years as roommates at Chicago’s Catholic haven for women, the historic Abbott College. If only they could have predicted the collisions between their carefully crafted life plans and the realities they discover beyond campus…

Madeleine harbors dreams of becoming a concert pianist while Dr. Reynold Fenwick, her mercurial graduate school mentor, harbors fantasies of Madeleine. Will pursuing her dreams be worth the cost? Will an evening in Budapest change her life forever?

Annie plans to build a perfect family with her perfect husband in the cutthroat news media industry, until an abrupt tragedy shakes the foundations of her marriage. What happens when she feels pulled between the two men she loves most, her husband and her father?

Audrey leaves her religious, restrictive parents behind and aims for Chicago’s downtown skyline, dating recklessly and staring down each grueling workday one Chicago Dog at a time. Will an island respite lure her away from her corporate future? When she finds herself in the arms of an unexpected lover, will she have the courage to stand up for her own evolving sense of self?

Follow the journeys of these remarkable women, and cheer them on as they navigate life, love, and chocolate soufflé.

Includes over a dozen decadent new recipes from Crowded Earth Kitchen!

Cherry Harbor Series, Volume 1

276 pages

CEK Publishing

ISBN-10: 0692292101

ISBN-13: 978-0692292105

Six Ingredient Chili

WIN_20151030_191018Too often, chili is a food of unfortunate extremes. At one end are recipes which profess that only expensive cuts of meat and rare chili peppers grown in obscure South American locations can be used – at Crowded Earth Kitchen, we think that’s silly. At the other end, there’s ready-to-eat chili in a can. Unless you are hiking through the Alaskan wilderness, have gotten lost, and are using canned chili to stay alive, please put the can down.  😉

Today’s chili recipe is perfect for a lazy weekend afternoon or a quick weeknight dinner. I like to double this recipe and freeze individual portions for fast lunches. A word to the wise: we’re cheating a bit on the six ingredients. Don’t worry – you only need six items from the market. One of those items, salsa, actually contains a whole list of typical chili ingredients including tomatoes, onions, peppers, garlic, and salt. By using salsa, we save ourselves the time of slicing and dicing several other ingredients, but we still capture all of the chili flavor! Let’s get started.

WIN_20151030_164633Ingredients (Makes 8 cups)

1 pound lean ground meat (turkey or beef will work equally well)

4 cups of salsa (any variety and spice level you prefer)

2 cups of corn kernels (fresh, frozen, or canned)

1 small can tomato paste

2 tablespoons ground chili powder (mild, medium, or hot)

2 cans (15 oz each) kidney beans

Directions

Step 1) Brown meat over medium heat, stirring frequently, until meat is fully cooked.

Step 2) Drain meat. If you want your chili to be as low-fat as possible, add some water to the meat and drain it a second time.

WIN_20151030_170628Step 3) Add salsa, corn kernels, tomato paste, and chili powder to the meat. If chili mixture is too thick, add water (1 cup at a time) until desired consistency is reached.

Step 4) Simmer chili for 30 minutes, covered. Add kidney beans and heat through. Serve hot.

Step 5) Want fancy chili? Feel free to offer sides of cheddar cheese, sour cream, macaroni noodles, and/or oyster crackers alongside bowls of Six Ingredient Chili. Enjoy!

Young Baker Spotlight – Congratulations, Olivia!

Olivia LaceToday’s post is a big ol’ Crowded Earth Kitchen shout-out to Olivia in Emmetsburg, Iowa – CONGRATULATIONS, Olivia!

Why are we so excited about Olivia, you ask?

Olivia is a talented young baker who won both a Blue Ribbon and Junior Recognition at the County Fair with the Rustic Apple Cake she baked! That’s a pretty impressive 5th grader, folks. Olivia is ten years old, and completed her first year of 4H. When she’s a bit older, her baked goods may very well be featured in the Iowa State Fair!

Olivia’s mother Marilee says that Olivia has been helping her bake “since she could sit on the stool by the counter” and now loves to make zucchini cake, muffins, and cookies largely on her own. Olivia’s next big project is kringla (we’d love to see that featured on Crowded Earth Kitchen, wouldn’t we, readers?). Olivia can already roll out kringla almost as fast as her mom… next is learning to mix the batter on her own.

French Bread NotecardHere at Crowded Earth Kitchen, we believe that food traditions are important. Young bakers like Olivia are carrying forward these traditions into the next generation – awesome! Olivia will receive a set of European Bakery notecards for sharing her story with Crowded Earth Kitchen.

Readers, if you know of another young baker or young cook who should be featured on Crowded Earth Kitchen, please contact us! We’d love to share more stories like Olivia’s.  🙂

Really Good Thanksgiving Stuffing

WIN_20151028_183433Of all of the traditional dishes often served with Thanksgiving dinner, stuffing is my very favorite. This particular recipe is a crowd pleaser, because it contains traditional flavors such as sage and apple, without any weird ingredients. Not only is stuffing easy to prepare, it’s very economical. Have a few slices of day old bread or dinner rolls? Simply cut them into cubes and allow them to dry for a few days. Then, follow the recipe below and bring a yummy bowl of stuffing to your Thanksgiving feast!

WIN_20151028_171158 - CopyIngredients (Makes 2 quarts)

10 cups dry bread cubes (I cut old dinner rolls into 1 inch cubes and left them to dry on baking sheets for about 3 days)

2 cups good quality chicken stock

2 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup diced celery

1/4 cup raisins

1/4 cup diced apple

1 teaspoon rubbed sage

1/2 teaspoon salt

WIN_20151028_171817 - CopyDirections

Step 1) Sauté celery, raisins, and diced apple in butter until celery is translucent. Add sage and salt.

Step 2) Heat chicken stock in a small saucepan. It doesn’t need to boil, but should be hot.

WIN_20151028_172523 - CopyStep 3) Place bread cubes in a large mixing bowl. Top with celery/raisin/apple mixture.

Step 4) Be patient with this step… we’re going to gently add chicken stock to the bread cubes. Please don’t dump two cups of chicken stock into the mixing bowl at once – you’ll drown those poor bread cubes and end up with mush instead of stuffing! Instead, use a ladle to spoon a little bit of chicken stock over the bread cubes, toss lightly, and repeat.

Pyrex 2-Quart Glass Bakeware Dish

WIN_20151028_172835Step 5) Transfer mixture to a large, greased casserole dish. If desired, place a few small pieces of butter on top of the stuffing mixture. Cover the mixture with a glass lid or aluminum foil. Don’t pack the stuffing into the casserole dish; just gently fill to the top without pressing down.

Step 6) Bake stuffing in a preheated 375 degree oven for 45 minutes. Serve while hot. Happy Thanksgiving!

Coconut Pecan Crusted Salmon

WIN_20151028_183841This isn’t your average Tuesday night dinner, friends. This is dinner dressed in its Sunday best! Sockeye salmon is the real deal, with a wallop of heart healthy Omega-3s and flavors induced by the cold, wild waters of Alaska. Sockeye salmon is NOT the same as “Atlantic salmon”, which is code for farmed salmon raised is crowded conditions and often fed artificial colors to turn the flesh pink. No thanks. Instead of grabbing the lower priced Atlantic salmon, I wait. And wait. And wait. Eventually, Sockeye salmon goes on sale – for about the same price as Atlantic salmon. When this happens, I buy several pounds at a time – it freezes well.

Sockeye salmon is special all by itself, but we’re making it extra fancy today with a crust of coconut and pecans. If you’ve never done this, don’t be intimidated by the idea of a crust. There’s really nothing to it! The preparation is as simple as spooning a crumbly mixture on top of your fish fillet and gently patting it down with your fingers. Seriously – that’s all. Let’s get started!

WIN_20151028_173148Ingredients (Serves 6)

1 large sockeye salmon fillet (approximately 1.5 pounds)

1 lemon or orange

1/2 cup pecans

1/2 cup flaked coconut

1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

Step 1) Slice lemon or orange into 1/4 inch thick rings, and place rings one inch apart on a baking sheet with shallow sides. Place your salmon fillet, skin side down, on top of the fruit rings. This will prevent your salmon fillet from sticking to the baking sheet.

Step 2) Combine pecans, coconut, and salt in a small food processor or blender. Pulse until the mixture has a texture like coarse sand. Don’t get carried away – you want some texture, not a smooth paste.

[My favorite small, affordable food processor: Englewood NJ100 Red Ninja Express Chop]

WIN_20151028_175326Step 3) Use a teaspoon (nothing larger) to carefully spoon the mixture along the center of your salmon fillet. Try not to let the mixture roll off of the salmon and onto the baking sheet. If that happens, remove as much of the coconut-pecan mixture as you can from the surface of the baking sheet, and place it on top of the salmon where it belongs!

WIN_20151028_175437Step 4) Using your fingertips, gently spread the coconut-pecan mixture toward the edges of the salmon fillet, creating an even crust over the entire surface of the salmon (it’s OK to leave a very small edge uncoated).

Step 5) Carefully place your baking sheet in a preheated 375 degree oven. Bake your Coconut Pecan Crusted Salmon for 20 – 30 minutes, or until salmon flakes easily.

Step 6) To serve: I like to bring the salmon fillet to the dinner table right on the baking sheet, surrounded with roasted vegetables (roasted green beans are pictured above). It is very easy to cut slices from the salmon fillet to serve your family or dinner guests. Enjoy!

 

Apple Cider Bread

WIN_20150929_185548We’re using a bread machine today, folks, because November is a BUSY month! Between launching the Global Recipe Project cookbook and keeping up other projects, the convenience of my bread machine is alluring. If you prefer to go old school, this recipe will work just as well if you knead the dough by hand as we’ve done with many other bread recipes.

This bread is earthy and spicy, not too sweet – the perfect accompaniment to a hearty meal of beef stew or perhaps pumpkin soup. Enjoy!

WIN_20150929_151711Ingredients (Makes 1 loaf)

1/4 cup butter, softened

1 1/4 cup lukewarm apple cider

2 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

3 1/2 cups flour

1/4 ounce packet of active dry yeast

WIN_20150929_184640Directions

This is the marvel of bread machines… simply add the ingredients to a bread machine in the order listed above (wet ingredients in first, yeast in last), and turn on your machine! I used a “sweet bread” setting with “medium crust.” A “white bread” setting would work just as well.

My bread was ready in just over three hours; times will vary depending upon the machine.

WIN_20150929_185047