Buttermilk Banana Bread

Banana bread is one of the simplest and tasty foods around. And as everyone knows, there are just about as many recipes for it as there are cooks.

But banana bread with buttermilk might just make you forget about all those other pretenders.

If you’re like me, you probably have an abundance of these two foods on hand. We always seem to have a banana or two out of a bunch of five or six that gets brown and is relegated to the freezer for later use.

The same is true with buttermilk. I just bought a quart of it because the recipe for buttermilk chicken we had called for about 1 1/2 cups.

So with about a half-dozen frozen bananas and some extra buttermilk, I went in search of a banana bread recipe and picked out this one from the 100th annivesary cookbook (1990) of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in my hometown of Crookston, Minn. (It’s author was Marcia Bombardier.)

In it, bananas and buttermilk team up to create a very moist loaf of bread, one which is light in flavor and color.

Buttermilk Banana Bread
½ cup butter
1½ cups sugar
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
3 or 4 mashed bananas
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon soda
1 cut nuts (optional)
Mix together all ingredients and put in loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

Philadelphia Cookies and Cream Cheesecake

Cheesecake, without a doubt, is one of America’s favorite desserts. Whether it’s baked or unbaked, sweetened with sugar and flavored with fruit, nuts and/or chocolate, cheesecake is a delicacy that has few rivals.

My first introduction to real cheesecake came more than 20 years ago. It was made by a co-worker, Gail Hand, and since then, I’ve rarely had another that could compare to it.

While cheesecake has been around in one form or another since ancient Greece, Americans didn’t fall in love with it until the 20th century.

In 1912, a man named James Kraft developed a form of pasteurized cream cheese. He later acquired the Philadelphia trademark for it in 1928. Philadelphia Cream Cheese is now the most commonly used cheese for cheesecake.

Here’s a recipe for cheesecake from the Real Women of Philadelphia website (http://realwomenofphiladelphia.com), which chocolate lovers will especially love.

Philadelphia Cookies and Cream Cheesecake
16  Oreo cookies, ground up
3 ounces melted butter
24 ounces Philadelphia cream cheese (3 8-ounce packages)
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 Eggs
6 Oreo cookies (crushed)
Grind the 16 Oreo cookies in food processor
Melt the butter.  Add the cookies and butter together and combine.
Press this crust into the bottom of a springform pan. Bake the crust in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes.
In a stand mixer or with a hand mixer, start mixing the cream cheese. Add sugar and mix. Add the lemon juice and vanilla and mix. Add each egg one at a time. Once fully incorporated, stir in the crushed Oreo cookies.
Pour the filling over the cooled crust. Bake in a 290 degree oven for 60 to 70 minutes
Cool completely before eating.

Grilled Pheasant Kabobs

Super Bowl Sunday is one of the most popular grilling days of the year. In fact, it’s the seventh largest. And to top it off, it is the biggest outdoor cooking day of the winter months.

What’s the best part of grilling on Super Bowl Sunday? You can prepare most of the food in advance.

Appetizers are a perfect example of this school of thought, and for the big game Feb. 3, consider Pheasant Kabobs.

The following recipe, from MacFarlane Pheasants (located in Janesville, Wis.), the largest pheasant farm in North America, will provide some tasty eating at game time.

If you’re not a hunter and don’t have access to your own birds, whole pheasants and variety of pheasant breasts and strips are available at MacFarlane’s online retail store (www.pheasantfordinner.com) with convenient shipping coast-to-coast via UPS.

And that’s not to mention several recipes for entrees, soups, salads and more.

Grilled Pheasant Kabobs
1 to 1½ pounds pheasant breast cut into strips
1 4-ounce jar jalapeno peppers
12 slices bacon, cut into thirds
6 bamboo skewers, soaked in water
Cut pheasant breast into 36 pieces and place in a mixing bowl. Pour the juice from the jalapeno peppers over the pheasant and marinade for 20 minutes.
Preheat grill for medium heat; lightly oil the grate Drain the marinade from the pheasant. Place a slice of the jalapeno pepper onto each piece of pheasant breast, wrap with a bacon strip and slide onto skewer. Place 4 to 6 wraps on each skewer. Place kabobs on the grill, turning frequently for 15 minutes, or until the bacon is crispy. Remove skewers from the grill. Plate and serve immediately.
Yield: Serves 9.
Note: If using an oven, turn on the broiler; place skewers on baking pan. Keep pan 6 inches away from the heat source to avoid cooking too quickly. Broil each side for 10 minutes, or until bacon is crispy; turn and broil 10 additional minutes. Remove skewers from oven, plate and serve immediately.

Garlicky Tortellini, Spinach and Tomato Soup

It’s often been said that garlic is an acquired taste. And generally when it comes to the pungent member of the allium family, you either love it or hate it.

I’m in the love it camp. The more garlic, the better. In fact, I sometimes go out of my way to find recipes that contain. However, I have to be careful in my choices.

Therese likes garlic, but only in smaller quantities, because she doesn’t wan to overpower her co-workers or students at school with bad breath. So, when I cook something that calls for garlic, the amount usually is scaled back a bit.

Today, I’m making the following tortellini, spinach and tomato soup recipe, which we’ve sampled in the past. It calls for six to eight cloves of garlic, which gets cut to one or two, in order to preserve my marriage.

The soup is incredibly easy to make, and served with some crusty bread, it makes a delicious lunch or dinner.

Garlicky Tortellini, Spinach and Tomato Soup
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 to 8 cloves garlic, chopped
4 cups (1 quart) homemade or low-salt chicken broth
6 ounces fresh or frozen cheese tortellini
14-ounce can diced tomatoes, with their liquid
10 ounces spinach, washed and stemmed; coarsely chopped if larger
8 to 10 leaves basil, coarsely chopped
Grated Parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano Reggiano
Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Add the tortellini and cook halfway, about 5 minutes for frozen pasta, less if using fresh. Add the tomatoes and their liquid, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook just until the pasta is tender. Stir in the spinach and basil and cook until wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Serve sprinkled with the grated cheese.
Yield: Serves 2 to 3.

Sweet and Sticky Slow-Cooked Short Ribs

The last  thing you want to do when watching a sporting event such as the Super Bowl — or this weekend’s start of the NHL season — is to be running back and forth to the kitchen to get some snacks.

Here’s a recipe for Sweet and Sticky Slow-Cooked Short Ribs that will take away that worry. It’s from Alison Ladman, a recipe developer for The Associated Press.

The ribs are a marinated in the traditional Chinese-style, with hoison sauce, rice vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, five-spice powder, sesame oil and garlic. They then are baked in the oven under tender.

These ribs could be served as appetizers or as a main course.

Sweet and Sticky Slow-Cooked Short Ribs
½ cup hoisin sauce
½ cup rice vinegar
½ cup low-sodium soy sauce
¼ cup packed brown sugar
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon five-spice powder
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
3 cloves minced garlic
3 pounds boneless beef short ribs, cut into long, thin strips (¼ inch thick by 1 inch wide)
In a medium bowl, whisk together the hoisin, rice vinegar, soy sauce, brown sugar, red pepper flakes, five-spice powder, sesame oil and garlic. Reserve ½ cup of the mixture in a small bowl. Add the short ribs to the original mixture and toss to thoroughly coat. Cover the bowl and refrigerate at least 8 hours, or overnight.
When ready to cook, heat the oven to 275 degrees. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with foil and place a rack over each pan.
Arrange the short ribs on the rack and bake for 45 to 60 minutes, or until tender. Brush the ribs with the reserved ½ cup of marinade and increase the oven temperature to 450 degrees. Return to the oven and cook for another 10 minutes, or until browned and caramelized. Thread a skewer through each piece of meat to serve.
Note: If beef isn’t your thing, the same approach will work with pork ribs and chicken wings (though you’ll need to adjust the cooking time).
Yield: Serve 12.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 270 calories, 48 percent of calories from fat, 14 grams fat (5 grams saturated, no trans), 65 milligrams cholesterol, 11 grams carbohydrates, no fiber, 8 grams sugar, 23 grams protein, 650 milligrams sodium.

Scrambled Eggs, Bacon and Tomato Panini

Everything is better with bacon. Whoever came up with that saying knows what they’re talking about. And it couldn’t be any more true than with eggs.

Bacon and eggs are the consummate breakfast combo. They are probably are ordered in tandem at cafes across the country more than any two other foods that go together.

And during the winter, when days are the shortest of the year and sunshine is at a minimum, the eggs in such a sandwich can be an important source of vitamin D. In fact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently reviewed egg nutrient data and results showed that one large egg contains 41 IU (International Unit) of vitamin D, 64 percent higher than before.

Here’s a bacon and egg sandwich — in panini form —  from the American Egg Board, which is sure to help you get some added vitamin D.

Scrambled Eggs, Bacon and Tomato Panini
2 eggs
2  tablespoon water
Salt and pepper
2 teaspoons butter, room temperature
4  slices whole wheat or white bread
4 slices fully cooked bacon
4 slices tomato
2 slices Swiss cheese
Heat panini press according to manufacturer’s directions. Beat eggs, water, salt and pepper in microwave-safe bowl until blended. Microwave on High 45 seconds; stir. Microwave until eggs are almost set, 30 to 45 seconds longer.
Spread butter evenly on one side of each bread slice. Layer bacon, tomato, scrambled eggs and cheese evenly on unbuttered side of 2 bread slices. Cove with remaining bread, buttered side up.
Grill sandwiches in panini press, on medium-high heat, until bread is toasted and cheese is melted, about 2 minutes.
Notes: Sandwiches can be grilled in a skillet over medium heat, turning once, until bread is toasted and cheese is melted, 2 to 4 minutes. Don’t overcook. Scrambled eggs will continue to cook and firm up after removed from microwave.
Yield: Serves 2.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 386 calories, 21 grams fat (10 grams saturated), 229 milligrams cholesterol, 26 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams dietary fiber, 24 grams protein:, 273 milligrams calcium.

Bourbon Onion Dip

No football-viewing party would be complete without chips and dip. Salsa and guacamole are two of the more popular ones with guests, but that doesn’t mean you should overlook others.

The following recipe, from Maker’s Mark Bourbon, contains ricotta cheese, Greek yogurt and sour cream as well as Vidalia onions, lemon juice and a little olive oil. It would be great with chip and vegetables such as carrots, celery and the like.

Bourbon Onion Dip
½ cup bourbon
4 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 large sweet onions/Vidalias, peeled, halved, sliced thinly with the grain
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup fresh ricotta cheese
¾ cup Greek yogurt
½ cup sour cream
Few drops lemon juice
Pinch sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
Crudite vegetables and chips for dipping
In a wide heavy-bottomed pot, heat the olive oil over high heat. Add the sliced onions and the teaspoon of salt. Saute the onions, stirring often until they begin to soften, 5 to 6 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and continue to stir and cook the onions until they begin to color, about another 15 minutes. Add ½ cup bourbon to the pan and stir in. Reduce the heat to low and cook the onions for another 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions have colored and caramelized. Remove the onions from the pan and spread on a plate or baking sheet to cool in the fridge.
Using a food processor or blender, combine the ricotta, yogurt and remaining 1 tablespoon bourbon and process until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a bowl. Fold in the sour cream. Once the onions have cooled, rough chop them briefly. Fold into the mixture and season to taste with lemon juice, sugar, salt and pepper. Serve the dip cold with crudite and chips.
Yield: Serves 6 to 10.

Bourbon Apple Glazed Chicken Wings

It’s not too early to start thinking about a Super Bowl party. And with the big game just a little more than three weeks away, many cooks are mulling the possibilities for eats.

Without a doubt, some sort of wings should come under consideration if you’re planning on hosting a get-together for this annual event, to be played Feb. 3 in New Orleans.

Chef Lee Anne Wong, winner of Iron Chef America and editor of the Maker’s Mark Cookbook, has created several delicious game-day snack recipes using Maker’s Mark Kentucky bourbon, including the following, which would surely be a hit to celebrate pro football’s biggest game of the year.

Bourbon Apple Glazed Chicken Wings
2 pounds chicken wings, trimmed
1 cup bourbon
1 can frozen apple juice concentrate, thawed (12 ounces)
½ cup soy sauce
¼ cup cider vinegar
¼ cup dark brown sugar
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon maple syrup
Combine all of the ingredients in a medium pot. Bring to boil on high heat and then reduces to a simmer for 30 to 40 minutes until the wings are tender and the glaze has reduced, coating the wings. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Remove the wings from the pot and transfer to a parchment-lined sheet tray. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the wings being to color and the glaze become shiny. Garnish with minced scallions and apple. Serve immediately.
Yield: Serves 4.

Easy Chicken Tenders

Anyone who has frequented a fast-food restaurant such as McDonald’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken or Dairy Queen probably is familiar with chicken tenders or fingers. They are extremely popular with the younger crowd.

Of course, the ones you can buy at those eateries or others more than likely are deep-fried and heavily coated with breading.

Here’s an alternative, adapted a recipe at the Real Women of Philadelphia  website (http://realwomenofphiladelphia.com/). These baked chicken tenders are quick and easy to make.

The Philadelphia Garden Vegetable Cream Cheese in the crunchy breading and on the side in a tasty dipping sauce keeps these lean tenders moist and juicy.

Easy Chicken Tenders
1¼ pounds chicken breast tenders (about 12 tenders)
6 ounces Philadelphia Garden Vegetable Cream Cheese
36 Ritz Crackers (one sleeve crumbled)
½ cup French’s French Fried Onions (crumbled)
6 ounces plain fat-free yogurt
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and spray a cookie sheet with a butter flavored nonstick spray.
Coat your tenders in 4 ounces of room temperature cream cheese then toss them in a crumbled mixture of crackers and fried onions. Place on cookie sheet and bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until chicken has reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees and is crispy on outside. Salt and pepper to taste.
Mix 2 ounces of cream cheese with yogurt, salt and pepper to taste. Serve this dip on side.
Yield: Serves 4.

Barbecue Pork Burgers

Ground pork is a lot like ground beef. It is easy to prepare, quick cooking and can be used by itself or in a variety of casseroles, meat loaves, meatballs, and other entrees.

The other day, a friend of mine, Bob Sullivan, was looking for suggestions for some ground pork that was part of a purchase of a half-pig. I told him my favorite use was to combine it with ground bison, elk or venison and make meatballs.

But after I got home from the gym, my first inclination was to go to the Internet to search for some other uses.

What caught my eye was the following recipe for Barbecue Pork Burgers that appeared in Redbook magazine a few years ago.

The burgers, which can be made in 10 minutes, are cooked on the grill and would be perfect the next couple of days, when temperatures are supposed to be in the mid-30s to almost 40 degrees.

Barbecue Pork Burgers
½ pound ground pork
½ cup barbecue sauce
1 tablespoon(s) Dijon mustard
½ tablespoon(s) salt
¼ teaspoon(s) pepper
2 ounces sliced Monterey Jack or Muenster cheese
4 (hamburger buns) split, grilled or toasted
1 1/3 cups coleslaw
Potato chips, for garnish
Pickles, for garnish
Prepare grill.
In a medium bowl, gently mix pork, ¼ cup of the barbecue sauce, Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper. Divide mixture evenly into 4 patties.
Grill burgers 5 minutes per side, until browned and cooked through, brushing them with the remaining ¼ cup barbecue sauce. Place cheese on burgers during last 1 to 2 minutes of cooking time, with grill covered, to melt cheese.
Place each burger on bottom of each hamburger bun; top with coleslaw, dividing evenly. Serve with potato chips and pickles, for garnish.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 591 calories, 34 grams fat, 31 grams carbohydrates, 40 grams protein.