Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Family Dressing & My Salad Diatribe

I've gotta be honest, salads are NOT my thing. Now, grits...grits are my thing. Bacon, yes please. Anything w/ cheese? Where do I sign? Yes. Salads? Eeh [shiver]..salad. It may as well be a four letter word in my book. No. No likey the salads.

That is until I married into this family and they introduced me to The Family Dressing. I feel like I'm referring to a big Italian family when I say that. But they're not Italian.

All kidding aside, I really had to change my mindset about salads.

• First, I cannot stand iceberg lettuce. It has absolutely NO nutritional value and it's flavorless. Well, until you dump some ranch dressing and a heap of bacon. Then I'll eat the hell out of some iceberg lettuce. But that just defeats the whole purpose of salads. It took me a long time to convince myself that salads don't need to include iceberg lettuce. In fact, they don't need to have any lettuce at all. I can tolerate spinach or arugula as a leafy base - but most of the time, I make chunky veggie salads (and I add an obscene about of homemade garlic sourdough croutons to the point that you can almost call it a panzanella but in my mind, it still counts as a salad).
• Second, I really only started eating salads to make myself feel less guilty about this pizza I tried of PW's. The pizza has changed my life. Seriously. We've had it for about a week straight and nobody's complaining. I'll blog about my own personal spin on it some time, but for now - stick w/ me on this salad stuff. Whenever I make this pizza, I make a huge salad. While I'm at work, I look forward to it when I'm thinking about what I'm going to be eating for dinner, it's sick. The pizza. It consumes me.
• Third (and skip to the next bullet point if you're squeamish), if you're anything thing like me, sometimes my erratic eating habits throw my..system into disarray. You people know what I'm talking about. The pipes. The pipes..they get upset. And I was watching this segment about colon health on the Rachael Ray Show. Bottom line - most of us (yours truly included) don't get enough fiber. And don't front - we all want a clean and healthy colon. I told Gabe I want his colon to be a picture of health. Ours will be the colons of 'healthy' people those posters in the doctor's office next to the 'unhealthy' colons. This bullet is especially poignant to me since unhealthy colons run in my family.
• Forth, well. There is no forth. To sum up bullet #3 in case you skipped it, eat more fiber!

Needless to say, this dressing is the only way you'll get me to eat a salad. I always have all six of these ingredients in stock so I never really have an excuse to not make my own dressing. That and this dressing is gooooooood.

Here's all you'll need:
Set up my little station over here..
Grate the garlic. Add more if you like just make sure you grate or mash into a paste. I love a strong garlic flavor as much as the next person, I don't, however, enjoy biting into raw garlic pieces.
There we go.
Adding the salt.
Love kosher salt.
Dijon mustard has definitely grown on me since I was a kid. It's a strong flavor too but such a small amount in this dressing means you can barely taste it. I like it now though so some days if I get a wild hair, I throw in an extra tsp.

10 or so cracks of freshly ground black pepper, about 1/2 a tsp. or so.
Doesn't this look like a tangerine? I know. I thought about adjusting the color but it truly is an orange-ish yellow. They're Meyer lemons and the difference is, they've cross a regular lemon with a mandarin orange. The result is a less acidic lemon with all the lemon flavor. But even when I squeeze these things, they smell like mandarin oranges to me, it's the strangest thing.
They're SUPER juicy too - they yield much more juice than a regular lemon. Downside? The zest. As I mentioned before, the true lemon essence is gone - this thing smells like a mandarin orange. I can't use the zest to make lemon simple syrup anymore. Regardless, I still love them.
Are you weirded out by the color as much as I am? I'm having to focus on the mustard to gauge the true color of the lemon.
This is the juice of only 1/2 the lemon.
I like to go full tilt with the acid. Focus on the mustard. It's just my crappy camera. I'm not squeezing an orange.
Glad that's behind us.
Baby whisk.
Then I looked over at my little garbage bag I keep while I'm cooking and thought of how great it would be if I had a little compost bin... Then I started thinking of all those worms and how I'm afraid of worms. And slugs. How am I going to grow those tomato plants I promised myself I would last year after visiting Momma Sally & Sarah and seeing all their gorgeous produce?
Back to the dressing. Focus, Ng.
Extra virgin olive oil. Has to be EV. First cold pressed. Then your dressing will taste nice and fruity..NOT oily.
Whisk, whisk, whisk.
Looks good. Check for seasoning now..
I personally like a little extra salt in mine. I like salt.
Another 1/2 tsp. should do.
5 more cracks of pepper too.
Top your favorite SALAD with this and thank me later.
And I couldn't resist. Here's that damn pizza I'm obsessed with.. Eggplant, fresh garlic, prosciutto & fresh basil. That's right folks. I have access to fresh, cheap BASIL in February. Take THAT old man winter!

The Family Dressing

makes about 1 cup of dressing

2 cloves garlic
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. fresh pepper
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
juice of 1 lemon (about 1/4 c., I prefer Meyer lemons)
2/3 c. extra virgin olive oil

With a microplane, finely grate 2 cloves of garlic or mashed into a paste with chef's knife. You can definitely add more garlic if you like, sometimes if I feel like vampires are following me, I'll grate in an extra clove. Add in salt, pepper mustard and lemon juice, whisk until combined. Slowly drizzle olive oil while whisking vigorously until blended. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Banana Oatmeal Muffins

It's amazing to me just how many kitchen gadgets exist out there. I admit, I'm a bit of a collector myself but my lack of space (storage, counter, etc.) really limits me to how many kitchen tools I can justify buying. That is, until my brother and his girlfriend drop in to town and present me with this guy:
His name is Marshall Green. His official job title is potato masher but his inaugural assignment in my kitchen was mashing nanners for these delicious muffins.
Start by sifting dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder & salt).
Here are some of the other things you'll need. They all happen to be staples in my fridge & pantry. These things make your house smell so good.
As I was beginning to mash the bananas w/ a fork, I thought to myself, there's gotta be a better way to do this. I looked up, saw Marshall and heard the angelic choir music going off. Marshall! Of course.
Ey mon, I'm op for dee job.
Yeah, mon.
I approve.
You show those bananas who's boss, Marshall.He seems to be enjoying it.Mission accomplished.
Hey, mon. You've got some butter and banana bits in your dreads.
Mix into flour mixture slowly until just combined. Mix eggs (room temperature, extra large), milk and vanilla extract.
Mix into flour/butter mixture until just combined. Make sure you scrape the bottom just in case there is any annoying dry ingredient stuff at the bottom.
Diced bananas. I love biting into banana chunks in the muffin.
Throw in.
Oats, coconut & walnuts go in too.
There's that spatula - it's there to FOLD this stuff into the mixture. So as not to mash the bananas. You want chunks. Not more mashed nanners, or else we would've just let Marshall do his job on all the bananas.Lined muffin tins, I made a combo of both regular and mini muffins.
Then I got so excited to get these in the oven I forgot to take a picture of the filled tins, whoops.
Anywho. Fill to the top, sprinkle w/ your garnish of choice. If you use different sized tins, make sure you put the small ones on the outside, logistics people.
Muffins rising..
I love watching baked goods rise in the oven.
Oooh! Lookey here.
15 minutes later.. A-dorable.
So cute! I want to pinch it's little muffin cheek! If muffins had cheeks.

Big brother muffins.
These were insanely good. I hope you make them and let me know about it. It's my Christmas wish.

Banana Oatmeal Muffins

3 c. flour
1/2 lb. butter (2 sticks, melted & cooled)
1 1/4 c. sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2.5 very ripe bananas, mashed
1.5 very ripe bananas, diced
2 eggs, room temp
3/4 c. milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. walnuts, chopped
1 c. sweetened shredded coconut
1 c. rolled oats, extra for sprinkling

Preheat oven at 350 F. Melt butter and set aside to cool. Sift flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder & salt. Peel bananas and mas into butter. In an electric mixer, stir dry ingredients until blended. On low speed, slowly add in butter/banana mixture. Be careful not to over mix. With a fork, mix together eggs, milk & vanilla until blended. Slowly add to flour/butter mixture until just combined.

Fold in walnuts, coconut and oats. Spoon into muffin tins lined with paper cups and sprinkle with oats or raw sugar (or both!) for decoration. Regular and mini muffin tins were filled to the top or maybe just below the top of the liner.

Regular muffin size yields 18-20 muffins, bake for about 25-30 minutes. I baked for 25 minutes and turned the oven off to let the tops brown for 5 minutes.

Mini muffin size yields about 108 mini muffins. Bake for about 15-20 minutes.

They're ready when a toothpick inserted down the middle come out clean.