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Readers Review the Practical Cook’s Recipes: 1st Edition

One of the highlights of being the Practical Cook—taking a look into kitchens around the world, learning more about how you, gentle readers, are cooking. Thanks to those of you who have taken the time to share some of your challenges and your successes. In this premiere edition of Readers Review, we’ll look at three successes and one commercial.

Clearly, no one in the sound of my virtual voice follows directions exactly—and that is awesome. Love the creativity out there! True story, the Practical Cook’s Mom (aka, PCM) once handed the Practical Cook a recipe that she had clipped from the newspaper with her changes noted at the top. It was an entirely different recipe. The Practical Cook must paraphrase Hank Williams Jr. here and say “leave me alone I’m just carrying on an old family tradition.”

Success with the Recipes!

Several of you enjoyed the Rustic Tart Recipe, including Blended Familia, who made a version with chorizo and butternut squash. Looking good!

Rustic Tart with Chorizo and Butternut Squash

Rustic Tart with Chorizo and Butternut Squash

From Miss Clairol, we have a riff on the Great Tuna Salad Experiment Recipe. Just like PCM, liberties were taken with this recipe. The idea of pan-seared tuna on greens is there, but surf-n-turf style, using Montreal steak seasoning, salt and pepper, Parmesan, and croutons dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette, served alongside some asparagus sauteed in butter. Well, at least two ingredients were the same, so let’s claim victory! Here’s a look:

Surf-n-Turf Tuna on a Bed of Greens

Surf-n-Turf Tuna on a Bed of Greens

Furthermore, success can be claimed on the All-Purpose Blueberry Muffins (twice made for school snack, the last time in quadruplicate). This is what 40 muffins look like (the 41st was requisitioned and divided for Quality Control and Crowd Control).

40 All-Purpose Blueberry Muffins

40 All-Purpose Blueberry Muffins

Because there was so much volume, requiring 6 cups of something flour-esque, I was able to sub half of it: 2 cups almond meal, 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour. We played “guess the secret ingredient” during the class, and they got sugar, cinnamon, and blueberries, but not one person guessed whole wheat, applesauce, or flax seed meal. Score! One student insisted it was a doughnut, failing to notice I reduced the sugar from 2 cups to 1.5 cups.

Blueberries Cover All Sins (and Whole Grains)

Blueberries Cover All Sins (and Whole Grains)

Another excellent amendment was made to the Banana Bread Recipe—mini chocolate chips. If you’re a choco-banana fan (hello Chunky Monkey), take this idea and run with it! Thanks to KAD for that one.

The Commercial

Quaker Oats Guy vs. Scott's Porage Oats Guy: KO in the first round!

Quaker Oats Guy

Last, but far from least, a fantastic follow up to the surprisingly popular One Ingredient, Three Ways: Oatmeal Edition. So many of you wrote with flavor combos and ideas, there will be a sequel. In the meantime, please enjoy the ultimate nexus of food and marketing, an ad campaign by Scott’s Porage Oats. Special shout-out to the Kilted Vegan for sharing that with us (and for providing me with an opportunity to create and use that moniker).

Seriously, we’d have no problem selling oats in America if we ran ads like that. Quaker Oats Guy vs. Scott’s Porage Oats Guy: KO in the first round!

And that brings us back to Sunday’s Weekly Menus. Some time between losing my mind decorating that Carrot Cake and setting up a treasure hunt, I’ll share next week’s plan. I can already tell you that Wednesday I’ll be serving something purple. More on that later.

Keep the reader reviews coming in, and we’ll keep the test kitchens open: practicalcook at gmail dot com

Twitter: practicalcook

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Filed under Kitchen Philosophy, On the Table

Banana Bread Recipe

Every few weeks, the Practical Cook fails to use the last banana. This is not a metaphor of some sort, this is a mismanagement of inventory. Never fear, gentle readers, all is not lost—the freezer pushes pause on the less than ideal banana. Simply put them in the freezer, skins on, and wait. When a collection of these freezer refugees develops, it’s time to make banana bread. Because when life gives you overripe bananas . . .

Banana Bread in the Oven

Banana Bread in the Oven

Banana Bread Recipe

This recipe is adapted from the Cook’s Illustrated version. Feel free to strip out the healthy add-ins. These are Practical Cook pantry staples from the Whole Wheat Waffles recipe. To mash bananas well, I’ve used a fork, a potato masher, and a hand-held mixer, choose your weapon based on your tolerance for time spent vs. clean-up.

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour (can sub whole wheat flour)
1 Tablespoon wheat germ, optional
1 Tablespoon flax seed meal, optional
scant 3/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups toasted walnuts, chopped coarse (about 1 cup), optional
3 very ripe, soft large bananas, mashed well (about 1 1/2 cups) **if using freezer bananas, either thaw them on the counter in advance, or microwave in their skins on a plate for a minute until thawed, peel and proceed
1/4 cup plain yogurt
2 large eggs, beaten lightly
6 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour the bottom of a regular loaf pan (nine by five by three).

2. Whisk flours, wheat germ, flax seed meal, sugar, baking soda, salt, and walnuts in large bowl.

3. Mix mashed bananas, yogurt, eggs, butter, and vanilla with wooden spoon in a medium bowl. Gently fold banana mixture into dry ingredients with a rubber spatula until just combined. Scrape batter into loaf pan.

4. Bake in the middle to lower middle of the oven for about 55 minutes, or until loaf looks golden brown and a toothpick pulls out clean.

5. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool further.

The recipe doubles well for Snack Week situations.

Banana Bread

Banana Bread

Up next, One Ingredient, Three Ways: Bacon edition. This one will not be veg-friendly. Facon does have limitations.

How do you manage Snack Week, or your own snacks? Send your ideas to practicalcook at gmail dot com or Twitter @practicalcook.

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Filed under Recipes