Banana Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting

DSC_0253That up there is a banana cake with whipped peanut butter frosting.

I actually call it crack frosting, because it’s so incredibly delicious. You’ll want to put it on thick and then put your face in the bowl to lick all the extra bits up. I’m not kidding when I say that this stuff is addictive. It was fantastic on this cake, but you should try it on brownies.

No, really. You should.

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Banana Cake

2 C flour
1 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1/2 t cinnamon
1 stick soft butter
3/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs
4 very ripe bananas
Vegetable oil spray
Cinnamon sugar

Prepare a cake pan by greasing it and then dusting it with cinnamon sugar. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.

In another bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add beaten eggs and mashed bananas.

Mix the wet ingredients into the dry, then pour into the pan. Bake for 60 minutes. Turn out onto a rack and let cool completely before frosting.

This is a rich, dense, not-too-sweet cake with great banana flavor.

DSC_0254The Best Whipped Peanut Butter Frosting EVER

1 cup smooth peanut butter
1 stick soft butter
2 cups confectioners sugar
Milk or cream

This is so easy. Just whip together a cup of smooth peanut butter and a stick of room-temperature butter. Use real butter, not margarine. Think about what happens when you whip cream (magic) vs. whipping vegetable oil (not much of anything). Mix with a hand mixer for about 3 minutes, until light and fluffy. Blend in the confectioners sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, until it’s all incorporated. I stir each 1/2 cup in before blending to avoid creating a snow storm in my kitchen. At this stage, the frosting will be thick, almost like a dough. Blend in milk or cream 1 Tablespoon at a time, until the frosting is light and whipped and spreadable. I added about 3 Tablespoons to the frosting in the pictures above.

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Did you know that my first novel, a young-adult dystopian story called Viral Nation, is scheduled for release by Penguin Books on July 2, 2013? Click here to like my author Facebook page. Thank you so much for your support!

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Slow Cooker Carnitas

DSC_0204Carnitas is basically slow-cooked pork, pan fried until it’s nice and crispy. It tastes amazing, and the best part is that it’s super easy to make. At our house, we turn it into a burrito bowl, which is basically a tortilla-less burrito. You could use it in tacos or actual burritos, or use the meat to make a chili or stew.

What you’ll need:

2 pounds of carnitas meat
Season salt
garlic powder
Citrus fruit

Olive oil

1 1/2 cups white rice
2 T chopped cilantro
2 cloves chopped garlic

Cabbage
Tomatoes
Onions
Cilantro
Avocado
Olives
Salsa
Sour cream
Shredded cheese
(Basically, what ever you’d put on a taco or burrito)

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What to do:

Let your slow cooker do most of the work. Put the pork in the bowl and season with season salt and garlic powder. If you can’t fit it all in one layer, season each layer. Zest a piece of citrus fruit into the pot as well. I’ve used lemon, lime, and orange, and they all taste fantastic. Cut the zested fruit in half and add to the pot as well. That’s it. You don’t need any liquid with the meat. I cook on high for an hour, and then on low for six to eight hours. You want the meat to be fall-apart tender in the end.

Heat a large frying pan with enough olive oil to coat the bottom. Take the meat out of the slow cooker and shred, removing any remaining fat.

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Put the carnitas meat in the hot oil, spreading it out into a layer. Now, just leave it alone while you cook the rice. You want a nice, crusty, crunchy layer on the bottom and tender, soft meat on top.

Add 1 1/2 cups of white rice to 3 cups of water. Throw in the chopped garlic and cilantro, as well as the citrus fruit halves from the slow cooker. The fruit will be very cooked and soft, and it will have absorbed some of the flavor of the meat broth and give that to the rice. Yum. IBring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low. Let cook for 20 minutes, until the rice is soft. Stir the cilantro and garlic in.

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When the rice is done, the meat is done. I swear, it’s like magic.Take the lemon out of the pot and give the rice a stir to distribute the garlic and cilantro.

Put some rice in each bowl and top with meat and shredded cheese, where it can melt a little. If you’re having a big bowl, you might want to put a little rice and a little meat and a little cheese, in layers, then repeat, so you’re not left with a bowl of rice when you get done with the toppings.

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We always put the toppings out and let everyone make their own the way they like it. I really love to make this on days when I’m at school until just before dinner time. I get to eat something scrumptious, even though I’m mentally exhausted, and feed my family something that didn’t come out of a box, even though I’m not home all day.

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Blasphemous Pork Chops and Noodles

I married my high school sweetheart, way back in the time of the dinosaurs. The marriage didn’t last, but the recipes I learned from my mother-in-law did. One meal that was a part of my ex-husband’s family culture, to the point of being nearly religious, was pork chops and noodles. I wasn’t even allowed to have the recipe until after I was officially a Lamare.

Pork chops and noodles is basically pork chops braised with butter and water, and with cooked egg noodles mixed  in the resulting broth and bread crumbs stirred in to make a sort of stuffing.

Changing up the recipe is a kind of blasphemy, especially considering that I cook for two Lamare kids on a regular basis. But I’m a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of girl. Plus, I wanted pork chops and noodles on a school night this week, so I needed to use my slow cooker. The result was amazing.

I give you my Blasphemous Pork Chops and Noodles.

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What you’ll need:

6 pork chops
1 1/2 cups liquid (I used chicken broth. I think vegetable broth, or even V8 juice would work just as well.)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T onion, finely chopped
Salt, pepper to taste
1 T Italian seasoning
1 t dry mustard
1/3 cup apricot preserves
Italian bread crumbs

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What to do:

In a bowl, mix everything but the pork chops and bread crumbs. Pour into the bowl of your slow cooker. Add the pork chops. Cook on high for four to five hours or low for eight to ten hours. About half way through the cooking time, turn the pork chops so that any part that wasn’t already submerged is.

When the pork chops are done, start cooking the egg noodles. I give them seven minutes, because they won’t be cooking with the pork chops at all. Take the meat out of the slow cooker and set aside. Strain the broth and return to the slow cooker. Remove any fat from the meat and put the chops back into the broth. Use a couple of forks to break the meat up into shreds.

When the noodles are cooked, drain them, then dump them into the slow cooker with the meat and broth. Sprinkle bread crumbs on top and mix everything together. I used about a cup of bread crumbs, and it turned out perfect. You might like more or less, so just use your judgement. Taste, and add more salt if necessary.

indexTradition calls for serving pork chops and noodles with applesauce. My kids actually stir it into their noodles. Leaving it off might have caused flat-out mutiny in my house, so I think your family might like it that way, too. Green beans is a good veggie to round out the meal.

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Did you know that my first novel, a young-adult dystopian story called Viral Nation, is scheduled for release by Penguin Books on July 2, 2013? Click here to like my author Facebook page. Thank you so much for your support!

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Tuna Pasta with Tomato Sauce

I went into the discount Goodwill store (I call it the Bins) this week, and found this little binder full of recipes. Some of them are typed up, others are just written on slips of paper and shoved between the pages. On one slip of paper was the bare bones of a recipe called Tuna Pasta. I decided to flesh it out, and came up with a pretty awesome pantry pasta that was ready in about 15 minutes.

What you need:

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1 T olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped white onion
2-4 cloves finely chopped garlic
1 can tuna in olive oil
1 big can pureed tomatoes, 28 ounces
2 T tomato paste
1 small can chopped olives
1/2 cup cottage cheese
1 cup frozen peas
salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, red pepper flakes
Bow tie pasta

How to make it:

Put a pot of salted water on the stove to start to boil for the pasta.

Heat the oil in a deep pan and add the chopped onion and garlic until translucent. Don’t let the garlic brown or it will be bitter.

Add the can of tuna, oil and all. Break it up with a wooden spoon and let it brown a little bit.

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Pour in the can of tomato puree and let it heat to simmering. Add the tomato paste and stir until it blends in. The paste adds some body and a richer tomato flavor to the sauce. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning. I like spicy sauce, especially when there are sweet elements as well (like the peas and the cottage cheese), so I put in a shake of red pepper flakes. Let simmer while you get the pasta in the boiling water. You’ll want to boil it for 11 or 12 minutes.

Stir the cottage cheese into the sauce. If you have it on hand, you can use ricotta instead, but I thought the cottage cheese worked really well.

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Add the can of olives and stir until the cheese is melted. Throw in the frozen peas when the pasta has maybe three mintues left to cook. The peas are best when they’re just warmed and not over cooked.

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When everything is mixed up and heated through you have a thick, rich sauce with a mild tuna flavor, a little spice, and sweetness from the peas and cottage cheese.

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Drain the pasta. You can serve the pasta and sauce separately, or do what I did and just pour the sauce over the pasta. Since you’re using cans here, yon can’t really regulate the amount of sauce. This serves at least four or five big helpings, so if you’re just serving yourself and a little girl, like I was, you’ll have leftovers. I find that pouring sauce over the pasta keeps everything from getting sticky or dried out.

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The verdict:

Ruby and I both practically licked our bowls clean. It was a nice mid-week, homemade dinner that will reheat easily for lunch the next day. You can taste the tuna, but it’s very mild. The peas were the star. They gave the pasta a bright, fresh flavor. This one is a keeper.

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