Happy New Year's Eve!!!
I've blogged thousands of recipes over the last 10 years. Ever wonder which ones are my favorites? The ones that I make over and over again for my family and friends? It's no secret really. You can use the categories column on the right side of the blog to search "My Favorites." You can also search Healthy Favorites, Slow Cooker Meals and Chocolate recipes!!! It's not a coincidence that a lot of the recipes in the chocolate category are also included in the "My Favorites" category. 😂🍫
Not very many of my recipes get the coveted title of a "favorite". It has to be something that's worthy of being enjoyed slowly and deliberately. Like a homemade English muffin drizzled with warm honey that begs to be savored on lazy Saturday mornings with a steaming cup of herbal tea.
Chocolate Chip Banana Bread - you had me at first bite. This extravagantly decadent, chocolate breakfast bread is exceptionally delicious. (Was that enough adjectives to get my point across?) There was never any question about whether to add this recipe to my favorites, really. And if I had a category that was favorites of the favorites - it would be there too.
Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
Bake 1 hour at 350. Let cool in pan 30 minutes.
Move to rack and let cool completely.
I can think of no better way to kick off a brand new decade than with a slice of this moist and delicious banana bread and a homemade cappuccino.
There are over 430 Waffle House restaurants in Georgia. Chances are that if you live in this wonderful state, you reside within 10 miles of at least 2 different Waffle House locations and probably at least one within walking distance. If you're not a Georgia resident but you've ever had the privilege of driving through our beautiful state, there's no doubt you took notice of our state restaurant. 😂 You won't have to drive far from an exit off of any major highway to satisfy your most imminent waffle emergency.
According to their website, Waffle House serves 341 strips of bacon, 238 orders of hash browns, 127 cups of coffee and 145 waffles -- EVERY MINUTE!!! That is a LOT of waffles. When I first moved to Georgia, I thought that everyone went to this popular establishment for the waffles. Turns out, people flock to this chain restaurant because it's open 24 hours a day - 365 days a year, it's relatively cheap and it serves greasy spoon comfort food.
What I find fascinating about this iconic restaurant, is that no matter what time of day I pass by any given location, there are cars in the parking lot and people sitting at the counter with steaming cups of hot coffee. I'm kind of embarrassed to admit this, but I've been in a Waffle House at 3:00 in the morning and there were plenty of other hungry diners happily enjoying a meal alongside me.
This is not going to be a popular opinion but I'm not actually a big fan of the waffles at Waffle House. My very favorite waffles are the still the ones that I make in my own kitchen. They're light, fluffy and delicious and even though they may be not be as popular as the Waffle House waffle, I think they're far better. And as it turns out - my kitchen is open 24/7 too. 💁🏻♀️
1 3/4 cups whole milk
8 Tablespoons butter
2 cups flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons yeast
1 teaspoon vanilla
In the morning, pour batter into a hot waffle iron.
Serve with fruit and powdered sugar (Amy style) or drizzle with maple syrup.
Weekends were made for waffles. With a little planning and prep work the night before, you can have fresh homemade waffles in under 15 minutes. That might actually be faster than I can get to a Waffle House and order a waffle. 🤷🏻♀️
Does it mean that you're a foodie if you sign up for a cooking class while you're on vacation? (Not asking for a friend.) 😂 I'm fully embracing my foodie status today - There was no way that I was going to miss out on the opportunity to learn to cook LIKE an Italian FROM and Italian - in ITALY - even if it means I earn the title "foodie". 🇮🇹 Spending the day making classic Italian food with the love of my life in the beautiful town of Bellagio was pretty much a dream come true.
We started off our cooking class with a trip to the market where we shopped for our ingredients. Then we spent the afternoon creating the most delicious Italian food that I've ever tasted. Homemade pasta, bolognese sauce, bruschetta (aka ragu) and tiramisu - oh my.
I'll admit that it's possible that sitting at an elegantly dressed table under a grapevine awning in the middle of our favorite little Italian town on a beautiful Fall day, influenced my opinion of the food. I may have forgotten some of the details about that day, like the weight of the flour and the amount of fresh sage to put in the sauce, but I'll remember the memories that we made on this special day for a very long time.
It took 7 people (including 1 professional) 6 hours to create this dream Italian meal. I anticipated that it would take me roughly 3 days to recreate this meal at home - by myself. 😂 Soooo, I decided to tackle it in stages - or a series of days to be exact.
This is how my Italian cooking week went -
Day 1 - I shopped for ingredients including Italian tomatoes, ground veal and dried ladyfingers. (In case you're curious - I had to visit was 3 different grocery stores to get these special ingredients.)
Day 2 - I tackled the Bolognese sauce, divided it into containers and stored it in the refrigerator.
Day 3 - I made the tiramisu and let it sit in the frig overnight (A technique that our instructor recommended for better consistency.)
Day 4 - I made the bruschetta and homemade pasta, opened the wine and served my version of food.
My goal was to replicate the cooking class meal as closely as I could - with ingredients that are available on this continent. 😂 (I actually did a little happy dance when I ran across these tomatoes in World Market because this was the exact brand of tomatoes that we used to make our Bolognese in Italy.) Replicating the meal was easier than trying to recreate the beautiful ambience in stunning Bellagio.
1/4 cup olive oil
1 stalk celery
3 bay leaves
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
25 ounces tomato puree
1 cup water
7 ounces finely chopped canned tomatoes
1 cup red or white wine
salt and pepper
1/3 pound ground veal
1/3 pound ground pork sausage
1/3 pound ground beef
Discard bay and rosemary and season with additional salt and pepper if necessary.
Serve ragu with pasta.
I made two separate batches of ragu because well, it's ragu and you and can never have enough. Just to be sure that I was being thorough in my research, I wanted to make a batch of the ragu made with white wine and compare it to a batch of ragu made with red wine. (All in the name of research. 😂)Turns out - even though I'm partial to a glass of red wine with dinner - I was a fan of the white wine ragu. Don't get me wrong - both ragu sauces were amazing and I would never turn down a bowl of either. I recommend doing your own "research" though. 🍝
Ciao from Bellagio!
What makes anyone want to run a marathon? Obviously, we aren't all cut out to be marathon runners. To most people, it hardly seems worth the effort to put ourselves through all of the training to be awarded with a gatorade and a medal. But to a runner, the results are worth the time and effort that they invest in their marathon training.
We are a society of instant gratification but have you noticed that the more time and energy that we devote to something, the more fulfillment we receive when our goal is finally achieved? It takes countless hours of training for a person to get themselves into the physical condition necessary to run a marathon. What is the motivation? Is it the potential of winning or just the satisfaction of accomplishing a long term goal?
I gave up running 12 years ago because of a wimpy ankle situation but when I WAS running, I never described myself as a "happy" runner. I ran out of necessity. It was an efficient and inexpensive form of exercise and most days, I had to force myself to do it. I devoted a percentage of my day to exercise because I felt like the benefits outweighed the pain and aggravation that I had to endure. It was the long term benefits to my health that kept me motivated to run around and around my neighborhood on a daily basis.
I apply the same principles to dinners that I make. There are times when we need instant gratification - and sustenance - in a hurry. There are other times when I devote a lot of time into making a meal and I've learned over time NOT to do it for the potential accolades that I will receive from my family. I actually get a lot of satisfaction from the process of transforming raw ingredients into something that smells and tastes absolutely heavenly. There's also a direct link between the amount of time that I spend cooking a meal and the contentment that I feel when I eat it.
There are certain meals that you just can't rush. They require that you invest a certain amount of time in order to achieve the desired results and there's no shortcuts. Risotto is one of those dishes. It requires a significant amount of time and a lots of attention in the form of constant stirring. Trust me when I say that it's totally worth it though. This shrimp risotto is DELICIOUS!
1 pound extra large shrimp, with shells
1 3/4 teaspoon table salt
1 Tablespoon oil
7 cups water
15 black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
4 Tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped fine
1/2 teaspoon fennel
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 ounce parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 cup minced fresh chives
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
Stir in chives, lemon zest and juice and 2 T. butter.
Serve with lemon wedges and parmesan.
Admittedly, this shrimp risotto isn't the most photogenic of meals because it's a little monochromatic. I can assure you that it's anything but one dimensional when it comes to flavor. This is definitely a new favorite in our house.
There are some foods that I consider to be just a catalyst for other, more appealing foods. Take french fries, for example. I actually refer to the long fried potatoes as ketchup sticks because without the ketchup, I really see no point in eating a french fry. I've always applied the same principle to my english muffin eating experience. The crater filled muffin has always served as a suitable holder for my butter, jam, peanut butter, eggs or avocado but beyond that - they really didn't serve any purpose.
It's not that there's anything inherently displeasing about english muffins, but on their own, they've never been that appealing. Then it occurred to me that perhaps I just haven't been eating the right kind of English muffins. I honestly don't think that I've ever tasted a made from scratch, freshly baked English muffin. Is it possible that I could make a muffin at home that is crave worthy, all on its own?
If anyone can turn an ordinary English muffin into an exceptional breakfast treat filled with nooks and crannies, it's America's Test Kitchen. I'm wasn't completely convinced that making homemade English muffins would get me to put aside my jar of peanut butter, but it was certainly worth a try.
2 3/4 cups bread flour
1 Tablespoon yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 cup + 6 Tablespoons warm whole milk
2 Tablespoons honey
5 Tablespoons cornmeal
2 Tablespoons butter
Let muffins cool completely on wire rack.
Split muffins with fork or knife.
Toast and serve.
Well it turns out, I really DO like plain English muffins. As I suspected, I was eating the wrong kind of muffins all this time. Homemade from scratch English muffins are AMAZING! And I can eat them plain - without any toppings. And when I do add my favorite toppings or filings, they're even more amazing.
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