Recipe—Moist Banana Nut Bread

This recipe makes the moistest most delicious banana nut bread ever! I have been making it for years. It is the perfect amount of sweetness for a morning treat. I love it warmed up with a little bit of butter spread. Mmmmmmm… It is dense and filling to help you get your day started. I have even added chocolate chips for something different and it was a real treat. This recipe makes two full size loaves. If you don’t think you can eat both it’s okay, they freeze great! Or you can make your neighbor very very happy and give them one. I’m sure it will earn you a few points. Next time you pick up bananas at the store be sure to grab a few extra and give this recipe a try.

Note: For holidays I have made a bunch of mini loaves as gifts using the foil mini loaf pans and they were perfectly sized. If you do this be sure to adjust baking time accordingly. 

INGREDIENTS
4–5 overripe bananas (almost all black)
1/4 c buttermilk
1 1/3 tsp baking soda
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 c vegetable oil or melted butter
2 1/4 c flour
2 c sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 c pecans, chopped (optional)

STEPS

  • Preheat oven to 350º
  • Mash the bananas in a large bowl.
  • In a small bowl mix the buttermilk and baking soda using a whisk until nice and frothy and slightly foamed up.
  • Add all remaining ingredients and your baking soda mixture to the large bowl with bananas and mix thoroughly.
  • Pour batter into two greased loaf pans.
  • Bake for 55–65 minutes or until a toothpick when inserted comes out almost clean. (I like my bread moist so I pull it out when the toothpick still has a little bit of crumbly residue on it. A totally clean toothpick will mean a dryer loaf.)
  • Allow loaves to sit for 15 minutes. (If you decide to use chocolate chips only allow to sit for 5 minutes.)
  • Gently remove loaves from pans and place on a cutting board or cooling rack to cool.
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Recipe—Mediterranean Chicken Stackers

Mediterranean chicken stackers are one of the more complex recipes that I have shared. It’ not necessarily complicated, it’s just lots of little steps. It’s certainly worth it though if you like Mediterranean inspired food. I love this served over noodles that have been tossed in garlic and olive oil. There are so many flavors in the chicken stacker itself, that you really don’t need a sauce for your noodles. Think of this as a play on chicken and eggplant parmigiana in one. What’s not to love?!?!

Note: If you aren’t a fan of goat cheese then I recommend using mozzarella instead. Mozzarella has a much more mild flavor.

INGREDIENTS
1 eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch slices (you will need one slice per chicken breast)
salt and pepper
olive oil
1 c croutons, coarsely crushed
1 tsp garlic, minced
3 oz herb goat cheese at room temperature or sliced mozzarella
4–5 thin sliced chicken breasts
1 beefsteak tomato (you will need one 1/4″ thick slice per chicken breast and the rest of the tomato finely diced)

STEPS

  • Lightly sprinkle the eggplant slices with salt and allow them to sit for 15 minutes.
  • In a large skillet heat 2 tbsp of olive oil over medium-high heat.
  • Add the crushed croutons and minced garlic to the pan and cook until lightly toasted, about 6­–8 minutes.
  • Transfer the cooked croutons to a small bowl and set aside.
  • Pat your eggplant dry.
  • In that same skillet heat 2 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat.
  • Add the eggplant and cook until golden and tender only turning once or twice, about 6­–7 minutes.
  • Transfer the eggplant to a large plate and spread an even layer of goat cheese over each slice (1–2 tbsp), or add a slice of mozzarella to each if you opted for that.
  • Lightly cover the eggplant with a sheet of foil to keep warm.
  • Season your chicken breast with salt and pepper.
  • Using the same skillet add 2 tbsp olive oil and heat over medium-high heat.
  • Put your chicken in the skillet and cook turning once or twice for 8–10 minutes or until cooked through.
  • Add a chicken breast to each slice of cheese covered eggplant and again cover with foil to keep warm.
  • Place the tomato slices in the skillet and cook turning once to warm through.
  • Add the tomato slices to the top of each chicken breast and again cover with foil to keep warm.
  • Add the diced tomatoes and 1/4 cup of water to the pan and scrape up all the bits in the pan using a spatula. Bring to a boil
  • Cook stirring occasionally until thickened, about 3 minutes. Lightly season with salt and pepper.
  • Add your previously cooked croutons to the tomatoes and stir together.
  • Plate your chicken stacker and top with the crouton and tomato mixture.

Recipe—Classic Macaroni Salad

Who doesn’t love good ol’ fashioned macaroni salad? It is a staple at summer bbqs and is the ultimate in summertime comfort food. With 4th of July right around the corner I thought that this would be a fabulous recipe to share. This macaroni salad is so basic and easy but it is still out of this world. It has just the right amount of creaminess. There is something about the way the vinegar breaks down the mayonnaise that makes it just right. The veggies give the salad the perfect amount of crunch to complement the soft noodles. I could seriously eat this stuff every day. It’s one item that I don’t think I could ever get sick of. This is a recipe that will suit everyone at your next gathering. Be sure to try this before summer ends. I have a feeling you will be happy you did.

Note: Be sure not to overcook your pasta or your salad will turn to complete mush. Once your pasta is cooked al dente, drain it in a colander and run cold water over the noodles to stop the cooking and cool it down quickly. When you add the dressing it may seem too saucy but don’t fret. The pasta will end up soaking up quite a bit of the moisture once it chills in the fridge. Another important reason you don’t want your pasta overcooked. If it seems dry the next day just stir in some additional mayonnaise. 

INGREDIENTS
1 1/4 c mayonnaise
2 tbsp distilled white vinegar
1 tbsp yellow mustard
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 lb macaroni, cooked and drained
1 c celery, sliced
1/2 c green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 c red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 c green onion, chopped
1/2 c sliced black olives

STEPS

  • Combine mayonnaise, vinegar, mustard, sugar, salt, and pepper to make your creamy dressing.
  • Pour dressing over cooked noodles and stir in all remaining ingredients. (I like to leave out a few black olives and green onions to garnish the top of the salad with.)
  • Cover and chill until ready to eat.

Kitchen Tip—Reusing Green Onions

I love to garden! I don’t have much of a garden, but every summer I grow my own tomatoes, herbs, and peppers. There is nothing better than walking out your back door and picking fresh vine ripened tomatoes for your salad or some aromatic rosemary to go with your grilled pork chops. I recently read an article on reusing and growing food. I was shocked at what I read about green onions and I would love to share my findings with you.

How many times have you chopped up your green onions and just tossed aside the leftover white bulbs? After reading this and seeing pics you will never do it again. A bundle of green onions can cost a couple of dollars. If you do this trick, one of those bundles can last you a very long time. And it is so easy! Just take those leftover white ends, roots and all, and drop them in a cup of water with the tops sticking out. Place in a sunny window and within 10 days, yes 10 days, they will grow right back to their full size. I will admit, I was amazed! I saw growth within 1 day! Next time you need green onions you take them out cut away and drop the bulb right back in the water to regrow again. Just be sure to change out the water on a regular basis so it remains clear and clean. You can also plant your bulbs in soil and just cut them, as you need them. Make sure to keep your soil really moist.

While green onions may not be something I cook with on a regular basis I can guarantee you I will be using them much more often now. Dice them up and toss in a green salad, on top of a bowl of soup, mixed in with your scrambled eggs, add them to your favorite mexican dish, top your baked potato with them, or mix them with butter and garlic for some tasty garlic bread. You can even dry green onions and add them to your collection of seasonings. They are a quick and easy way to add some flavor to almost any dish. The possibilities are endless and with green onions always at your fingertips.

Recipe—Shrimp Tacos

Seafood and Mexican are a match made in heaven. Throw in a margarita or Corona with lime and I am in heaven! For how delicious this recipe is you would think it would take longer to make, but that is not the case. It is relatively easy and comes together very quickly. The shrimp are so good that when I am on a low-carb diet I just eat a bowl of the shrimp with cheese and avocado. This meal is light, refreshing, and yummy in my tummy. Add my mango salsa and it’s a flavor explosion. I hope you enjoy the tacos as much as my family does. Buen provecho!

Note: This recipe is written for tacos but sometimes I use large tortillas filled with black beans and rice for some awesome burritos.

INGREDIENTS
3 tbsp olive oil
1 c white onion, chopped
2–3 serrano chilies, deseeded and thinly sliced
4 tbsp butter
3 tbsp garlic, minced
2 lbs shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 c fresh cilantro, chopped
kosher salt
tortillas, warmed
2 limes

SOME FABULOUS GARNISHES
shredded  pepper jack cheese
guacamole or sliced avocado
sour cream
mango salsa (see recipe below)
pico de gallo

STEPS

  • Heat oil in a large frying pan over high heat.
  • Add onions and chiles and cook stirring frequently until onions are lightly browned, about 10 minutes.
  • Remove vegetables from heat and place in a small dish to the side.
  • Melt butter in the frying pan over medium-high heat.
  • Add garlic and cook for about 1 minute.
  • Add shrimp to pan and cook until bright pink and no longer translucent. (Cooking time will vary based on the size of your shrimp. Cut to test and be sure they are cooked in the middle.)
  • Return cooked vegetables to your pan and stir in with shrimp.
  • Add cilantro, salt, and the juice from one lime.
  • Put shrimp into the tortillas and serve with a slice of lime on the side.

See my mango salsa recipe here for a great pairing with these tacos:
https://divadicucina.wordpress.com/2012/01/25/recipe-mango-salsa/

Recipe—Limoncello Chicken

After making two batches of fresh squeezed lemonade with lemons from my sister’s garden I still had some leftover. Lucky for you I made my limoncello chicken and decided to share the recipe. This recipe is so refreshing and light, perfect for summer.

Limoncello is a sweet and citrusy Italian liqueur. When you heat the liqueur the alcohol is cooked off and you are left with a sweet sauce that compliments the basil perfectly. Whatever you do, do not skip the fresh basil! Something about the flavors of the lemon and basil just work together perfectly. This dish pairs wonderfully with cooked rice. Limoncello chicken and rice was actually one of my son’s first non-pureed foods that he ate as an infant. He gobbled every bite of it up. Even the basil! Since then we have called him our little gourmet. It is still to this day one of his favorites. This recipe will be a hit with the whole family so don’t be surprised if they ask you to make it again, and again, and again. Good thing limoncello comes in such big bottles! In Italy limoncello is commonly served after dinner because it supposedly aids in digestion so pour yourself an after dinner sipping shot, kickback, and enjoy. Bottoms up!

INGREDIENTS
4–5 thin sliced chicken breasts
salt and pepper to taste
flour for dredging
1 tbsp butter
1 c chicken broth
1/2 c limoncello (lemon liqueur)
1 lemon, sliced and seeds removed
fresh basil leaves

STEPS

  • Season your chicken breasts with salt and pepper.
  • Dredge the breast with flour giving them a nice even coating.
  • Melt the butter in a large skillet and add chicken.
  • Cook over medium heat until both sides are a golden brown.
  • Add chicken broth, limoncello, and lemon slices.
  • Cook for an additional 5 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.
  • Using the back of a spoon gently press the lemon slices to release any extra juices and remove from the pan. (Or you can save the cooked slices to serve with the chicken for an extra touch.)
  • Remove the chicken breasts from the skillet.
  • Turn heat up to medium-high and allow the sauce to simmer and thicken for a couple of minutes.
  • Remove pan from heat.
  • Spoon the limoncello sauce over the chicken (and rice if you made it) and top with fresh-snipped basil.

Recipe—Breakfast Potatoes

These breakfast potatoes are a Sunday brunch must have item. I have been making these potatoes for years now and they are always a big hit. The best way to describe them would be a breakfast version of the garlic fries that you get at the ballpark. But better of course. How can they not be when you add salty bacon and savory mushrooms? When cooking up a big breakfast it’s really nice to be able to put your potatoes in the oven and forget about them while you focus on your other dishes. There always seems to be enough going on up on the stove top. And I must add that these are superb when wrapped in a fresh tortilla with some scrambled eggs and salsa. Gotta love breakfast burritos!

INGREDIENTS
2 lbs baby red potatoes, halved
2 c mushrooms, sliced
1/4 c olive oil
salt and pepper
8 slices of bacon, cooked and chopped
2 tbsp garlic, minced
1/4 c parsley

STEPS

  • Preheat oven to 425º.
  • In a large baking dish toss the potatoes and mushrooms in olive oil.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Bake for 40 minutes stirring occasionally.
  • Mix in the bacon and garlic and cook for an additional 5 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender.
  • Remove from oven and mix in parsley right before serving.