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January 2011

Quick and Easy Coconut Macaroons

Coconut macaroons

Coconut Macaroons

These are delicious on their own, or you can dip the bottoms of each macaroon in melted semi-sweet chocolate and then let them cool on wax paper. 

Download Quick Easy Coconut Macaroons recipe

14 ounces sweetened shredded coconut

14 ounces sweetened condensed milk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

2.  Combine the coconut, condensed milk, and vanilla in a large bowl. Whip the egg whites and salt on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until they make medium-firm peaks. Carefully fold the egg whites into the coconut mixture.

3.  Drop the batter onto sheet pans lined with parchment paper using either a 1 3/4-inch diameter ice cream scoop, or 2 teaspoons. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown. Cool and serve.

Coconut macaroon mix
Coconut macaroon scoop
Coconut macaroons baking

Prize Winning Banana Bread

Prize banana bread

Prize Winning Banana Bread

I have at least 5 favorite banana bread recipes – but never tire of trying new variations. Some days I like to make 100% whole wheat bread, other times I will add mini chocolate chips, or lime zest and coconut.  America’s Test Kitchen described this recipe as the “Ultimate Banana Bread” and I have to say – it’s quite good.  I would probably make this creative version for a Sunday brunch or special occasion. Be sure to use very ripe, heavily speckled (or even better - black) bananas in this recipe.

. Download Prize Winning Banana Bread recipe

1 3/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon table salt

6 large very ripe bananas (about 2 1/4 pounds), peeled

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly

2 large eggs

3/4 cup (5 1/4 ounces) packed light brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped (optional)

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

1.  Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 8½ by 4½-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt together in large bowl.

2.  Place 5 bananas in microwave-safe bowl; cover with plastic wrap and cut several steam vents in plastic with paring knife. Microwave on high power until bananas are soft and have released liquid, about 5 minutes. Transfer bananas to fine-mesh strainer placed over medium bowl and allow to drain, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes (you should have ½ to ¾ cup liquid).

3.  Transfer liquid to medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until reduced to ¼ cup, about 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat, stir reduced liquid into bananas, and mash with potato masher until fairly smooth. Whisk in butter, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla.

4.  Pour banana mixture into flour mixture and stir until just combined with some streaks of flour remaining. Gently fold in walnuts, if using. Scrape batter into prepared pan. Slice remaining banana diagonally into ¼-inch-thick slices. Shingle banana slices on top of either side of loaf, leaving 1½-inch-wide space down center to ensure even rise. Sprinkle granulated sugar evenly over loaf.

5.  Bake until toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean, 55 to 75 minutes. Cool bread in pan on wire rack 15 minutes, then remove loaf from pan and continue to cool on wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Prize banana bread prebake
Prize banana bread baked

Fluffy Scrambled Eggs with Spinach and Cream Cheese

Scrambled eggs spinach cream cheese

There is a wonderful little coffee shop in Silver Lake called Millie’s Café. When I lived in that area it was my favorite breakfast spot and I always ordered Millie’s Special – scrambled eggs with spinach and cream cheese. They serve theirs with a homemade biscuit, which makes a pretty perfect meal. At Millies they do “everything the pain in the ass, old-fashioned way, by hand, from scratch, because there is a difference.”  Millie's Cafe

Download Fluffy Scrambled Eggs with Spinach and Cream Cheese recipe

4 eggs

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon tarragon

Few grinds of black pepper

3 tablespoons whole milk

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 cups fresh spinach (about 1 bunch), stemmed, washed, and dried with paper towel, and torn into 1-inch pieces

Salt and pepper to taste

2 ounces cream cheese, cut into ¼” cubes

1. Crack eggs into medium bowl. Add salt, pepper, tarragon and milk. Whip lightly with fork until color is pure yellow and a few large bubbles remain. Set aside.

2. Place butter in 10” nonstick skillet and set pan over medium high heat. When the butter foams, swirl around pan and add torn spinach and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook 1-2 minutes, stirring with spatula, until wilted. Pour beaten eggs into pan. With wooden spoon or plastic spatula, push eggs from one side of pan to other, slowly lifting and folding the eggs to form large curds, 1-1 ½ minutes.  Dot mixture with cream cheese and stir gently to incorporate. Serve immediately. 

Scrambled eggs spinach
Scrambled eggs saute spinach
Scrambled eggs cooking
Scrambled eggs stir
Scrambled eggs cream cheese
Millie's coffee shop 1

Simple Hearty Pasta Bolognese

Pasta bolognese

This is an easy sauce that works on any type of pasta. The mushrooms give the sauce a hearty, slow cooked flavor. To obtain the best texture, be careful not to break up the meat too much when cooking it with the milk in step 4. With additional cooking and stirring, it will continue to break up.

½ ounce dried porcini mushrooms 

1 ¼ cups sweet white wine (Gewürztraminer or Riesling)

½ small carrot, peeled and chopped into rough 1/2-inch pieces (about 1/4 cup)

½ small onion, chopped into rough 1/2-inch pieces (about 1/3 cup)

3 ounces pancetta, cut into 1-inch pieces

1-28 ounce can San Marzano whole tomatoes with juice 

1 ½  tablespoons unsalted butter 

1 small clove garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1/2 teaspoon)

1 teaspoon granulated sugar 

1 ½ pounds meatloaf mix (or equal amounts 80 percent lean ground beef, ground veal, and ground pork)

1 ½ cups whole milk 

2 tablespoons tomato paste 

 table salt 

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper 

1 pound pasta 

 Grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

 1. Cover porcini mushrooms with 1/2 cup water in small microwave-safe bowl; cover bowl with plastic wrap, cut a few steam vents with paring knife, and microwave on high power for 30 seconds. Let stand until mushrooms have softened, about 5 minutes. Using fork, lift porcini from liquid and transfer to second small bowl; pour soaking liquid through paper towel-lined mesh strainer. Set porcini and strained liquid aside.

2. Bring wine to simmer in 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat; reduce heat to low and simmer until wine is reduced to 2 tablespoons, about 20 minutes. Set reduced wine aside. 

3. Meanwhile, pulse carrot in food processor until broken down into rough 1/4-inch pieces, about 10 one-second pulses. Add onion; pulse until vegetables are broken down to 1/8-inch pieces, about 10 one-second pulses. Transfer vegetables to small bowl. Process softened porcini until well-ground, about 15 seconds, scraping down bowl if necessary. Transfer porcini to bowl with onions and carrots. Process pancetta until pieces are no larger than 1/4 inch, 30 to 35 seconds, scraping down bowl if necessary; transfer to small bowl. Pulse tomatoes with juice until chopped fine, 6 to 8 one-second pulses. 

4. Heat butter in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat; when foaming subsides, add pancetta and cook, stirring frequently, until well browned, about 2 minutes. Add carrot, onion, and porcini; cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are softened but not browned, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and sugar; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add ground meats, breaking meat into 1-inch pieces with wooden spoon, about 1 minute. Add milk and stir to break meat into 1/2-inch bits; bring to simmer, reduce heat to medium, and continue to simmer, stirring to break up meat into small pieces, until most liquid has evaporated and meat begins to sizzle, 18 to 20 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and cook until combined, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes, reserved porcini soaking liquid, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper; bring to simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to medium and simmer until liquid is reduced and sauce is thickened but still moist, 12 to 15 minutes. Stir in reduced wine and simmer to blend flavors, about 5 minutes.

5. Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts water to rolling boil, covered, in stockpot. Add 1-tablespoon salt and pasta, stir to separate, and cook until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup pasta cooking water, and return pasta to stockpot. Add 2 cups sauce and 2 tablespoons pasta water to pasta; toss well, adding remaining pasta water, if necessary, to help distribute sauce. Divide pasta among individual bowls and top each portion with about 1/4 cup remaining sauce. Serve immediately, passing Parmesan separately.