Sunday, August 30, 2015

Fresh Flavor Sunday - Blackberry Banana Cake

It's been a summer of mood swings here in Portland - we've had very hot, very cool, and very stormy weather, as well as smoke from recent wildfires blanketing the valley.

So I haven't been as on-top of my blackberry picking as I have been in past years. We live near some wonderful walking paths, a lot of them lined with blackberry bushes, so I've been anxious to go out. Well, I finally got to it yesterday with my niece. We were fairly certain we'd get rained on, but this was a rare Pacific Northwest moment where the dark clouds blew away from us!

We had a good time, but didn't find the kind of volume I would have hoped for. A lot of the berries were either unripe, out of reach, or shrivelled on the vine. We hiked through some tall grass in hopes of finding better berries, but only found dried ones - and wound up covered in burrs for our trouble.

Seriously - it took about 45-minutes to comb and scissor all of them from Shiloh's legs, belly, chest, and ears. We're talking around a hundred burrs.

A not very focused picture of the blackberries.

However, the whole point of the excursion was not just to have berries, but to do something out of them. Because we didn't get a ton, I supplemented with some from my freezer and made a version of my favorite banana bread! Actually I usually call it a cake, because I bake it in a round Springform pan.

My nephew and I argued over its identity as a cake - the recipe it's based off of, the Cinnamon Banana Cake from Amber Rose's Bake, Love, Nourish, is called a cake. And it's got fruit in it. My nephew alleged that the fruit on the inside made it a pie. Cue more arguing.

Anywhoodle - here's the recipe:

~ Banana & Blackberry Cake ~

1 ½ cup whole wheat pastry flour or spelt flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp fine sea salt
1 stick plus one tablespoon (9 tablespoons total) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
½ cup honey
2 eggs
4 very ripe bananas, well-mashed
2 cups blackberries (I eyeballed this one)
1 tsp vanilla or vanilla bean paste

Set the oven rack to the lower center and preheat to 350 degrees. Prepare a 9-inch Springform pan by greasing and flouring it; if you’re using a glass and silicone pan, no need to prep.

Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a small bowl. In a medium sized bowl, stir together the bananas, honey, melted butter, eggs, and vanilla.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir together until well-blended but still slightly lumpy. Add most of the blackberries, and then pour into the pan. Dot remaining blackberries onto the top.

Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until the cake has pulled from the sides and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool about 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

So this was my version of enjoying local flavors this week! What was yours? The My Local Flavor promotion ends tomorrow - there's still time to enter! Just snap a pic of your local flavor, and share it with the tags #MyLocalFlavor and #ReservationsForTwo in order to be entered to win one of five gift baskets or a KitchenAid stand mixer! For full rules and details, click here.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Fresh Flavor Friday: Adventures in Gardening with Katherine Reay + Book Giveaway!

Hillary here - so delighted to have guest Katherine Reay to chat about her adventures in gardening!

My family loves food. When we lived in Ireland, another family and ours would get together and share a huge Sunday dinner – one that took hours to cook and an equally long time to enjoy. Now that we're back in the states, Sunday dinner remains one of our favorite family traditions. The menu varies – barbeque one week, Coq au Vin another and some multi-course Italian extravaganza at least monthly. We love the time together, searching for the menu, and the cooking. We endure the clean-up. In fact, when writing Lizzy and Jane, I tapped into this passion. Most of Lizzy’s food comes from family favorites.

But this summer we tried something new. We started our first garden. It was an amazing experience and changed the way we cook and even think about food. Last spring, we built our raised beds, filled them with buckets and buckets of dirt, planted the vegetables, cultivated and pruned them, and now we’re still harvesting the bounty.

There’s much to learn, but we’re pleased so far. Tomatoes are everywhere – one family does not need eight plants – and the zucchini tried to take over the world. Wilber (my name for the much anticipated ginormous pumpkin plant) was the only true disappointment – no pumpkins.

As the garden started to flourish, we found ourselves looking at our produce first rather than our recipe books. The food drove the decisions and we devised new ways to cook.

We devoured more fresh salads (even converted a kid to actually liking them), sautéed vegetables with new spices, and packed zucchini into practically every course – bread, risotto, as a “boat” for meatloaf and even shredded as pasta. It was an adventure – and not every meal a success. Warning: If you shred your zucchini too fine, you don’t get pasta strips; you get mush.

Summer is ending now and the garden will soon go dormant, but I expect much of what we learned will remain. We’ll look for fresh offerings, keep as close to local as possible and, come spring, start all over again. This time, I’m determined to solve the Wilber Situation.

One of our favorites this year was Stuffed Zucchini. This recipe is from Taste of Home. Happy Cooking!

1-1/2 pounds lean ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
1 large green pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, minced – don’t touch your eyes.
1-1/4 cups soft bread crumbs – we made our own with GF bread
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes – we used fresh, 2 tbsp.
1 teaspoon dried basil – we used fresh from the garden, a full tbsp.
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 cans (8 ounces each) tomato sauce, divided
2 medium tomatoes, coarsely chopped –
4 to 5 medium zucchini
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese

Photo Credit: Taste of Home
1. In a large bowl, combine first 11 ingredients and one can of the tomato sauce; mix well. Stir in tomatoes. Halve zucchini lengthwise; scoop out seeds. Fill with meat mixture; place in two 13-in. x 9-in. baking dishes. Spoon remaining tomato sauce over each.

2. Bake, uncovered, at 375° for 45 minutes or until the zucchini is tender. Sprinkle with cheese during the last few minutes of baking.

Yield: 8-10 servings.

Hillary here - thanks for sharing, Katherine! And for readers, don't miss out on one of the gift baskets or grand KitchenAid Mixer Prize - click here for entry instructions! (It's easy, I promise!)

And because it's Friday and Sunny out but *not* 90+ degrees here in Portland, giving away two books today - a copy of Katherine's Lizzy and Jane and a copy of Reservations for Two. Use the form below to enter!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Fresh Flavor Monday: Heirloom Tomato Caprese Salad

If you're looking for a satisfying dish with a lot of flavor but not a lot of effort, heirloom tomatoes are here for you! They're right in season at the moment, so check out your farmer's market and better-stocked grocery stores.

Heirloom tomatoes are varietals that have been passed down in a family for several generations. We're accustomed to tomatoes that are round and evenly colored. Heirlooms can be yellow, purple, red, and orange, They can be lumpy and asymmetrical - no two are identical.