Try This Heavenly Banana Bread Recipe for an Easy Treat

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Got ripe bananas? If so, we have the recipe for you. Adobe Stock / FomaA

Utilizing ingredients found in most pantries already, moist banana bread is a delicious way to make use of bananas that are well past ripe.

If you are a novice baker and want to try your hand at something eminently doable, banana bread is good choice. (A peel-y good choice, one could say.)

First, a bit of history about everyone’s favorite quick bread. The U.S. saw the arrival of bananas in the 1870s, but it took a spell before they appeared as an ingredient in desserts. The spread of baking soda and baking powder in the 1930s helped banana bread become popular and a standard recipe of American cookbooks.

A moist, sweet, cake-like quick bread, banana bread is made with fully ripe, mashed bananas. There are many different variations of the traditional recipe, so feel free to throw in a ⅓ cup or so raisins, nuts, or chocolate chips. Feeling extra indulgent? After baking, toast a slice, then top it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for an easy dessert that you and your guests will love. Because this recipe is a breeze to pull together, it’s a good one for little bakers who want to help mix and scoop as well.

 

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Banana Bread

Makes 12 servings

Ingredients:

½ cup butter or shortening
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
3-4 very ripe bananas, crushed
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda dissolved in cold water
⅓ cup raisins, nuts, or chocolate chips

Method:

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Grease the bottom only of a 9” x 5” or 8” x 4” loaf pan with cooking spray or shortening.

In order listed, mix together all ingredients.

Bake for 40 minutes.

Related: Make Baked French Toast and Strawberry Smoothies for a Better Brunch

Make This Perfect Peppermint Bark With Just 3 Ingredients

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Adobe Stock | Photo by MSPhotographic

Nothing is as festive as peppermint bark during the holidays in the Hudson Valley, and this recipe is as easy as one-two-three.

This red-and-white holiday sweet is all bark and no bite (well maybe a bit of a minty one). Plus, it’s perfectly giftable for family and friends during the holidays. Simply break it into pieces, then place in a seasonal tin or gift bag.

Peppermint Bark

Makes 3 dozen small pieces

Ingredients:

About 6 candy canes
1 package (12 oz) white chocolate chips
1 tsp peppermint extract

Method:

Place candy canes in a sealable plastic bag and hammer into small chunks (about 1/8 inch.)  This should yield about 1/2 cup. Separate 1/3 cup of the candy cane pieces.

Line a small cookie sheet (about 13” x 9” in size) with parchment paper, so that the paper completely covers the bottom of the pan and hangs over the sides.

Combine the peppermint extract and the white chocolate in a bowl and microwave for 30 seconds.

Stir thoroughly, then microwave for 25 seconds. Stir thoroughly again. The chocolate is ready when it is smooth, so it may need a few more seconds, but be careful not to over-microwave. White chocolate “clumps” quickly so as soon as chocolate is smooth, stir in 1/3 cup of the candy cane pieces and pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet.

With a rubber spatula, spread quickly until it’s even and about ¼ inch thick. It will cover about ¾ of a 9” x 13” cookie sheet. Sprinkle the remaining candy cane pieces on top.

Refrigerate bark for at least one hour, or overnight. Break into pieces. Prepare for gifting or store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to five days.

Related: Where to Find Creamy, Dreamy Hot Cocoa in the Hudson Valley

6 Succulent Centerpieces That Make Hudson Valley Tables Pop

Loftus Design LLC, original photo on Houzz

These miniature gardens bring a ton of life and color to any space, and will be guaranteed conversation starters at your next home gathering.

Why bother with flowers when you can have a fresh focal point that’s just as beautiful but lasts for years? If you haven’t already hopped on the succulent bandwagon, perhaps we can convince you with this roundup of six stunning and diverse succulent centerpieces.

Perfect as a display on an outdoor table or an accent on a sunny windowsill, these miniature gardens will be guaranteed conversation-starters at your next party. Best of all, they’re much easier to put together than they seem and require very little care to maintain.


Jessica Risko Smith Interior Design, original photo on Houzz

1. Simple and elegant. The designer of this Santa Barbara, California, backyard used a low wooden trough to hold a mix of succulents running down the center of a trestle table. The design is both simple and timeless — fitting well with the modern farmhouse-style dining set.

To re-create this look, choose a neutral-toned container, ideally with a narrow rectangular shape, and a subdued gray-green color palette for the succulents, such as pearly echeveria (Echeveria spp., USDA zones 9 to 11) and silver-coated cobweb houseleek (Sempervivum arachnoideum, zones 4 to 9), both pictured. The plants seen here would grow best in full sun to partial sun exposure.


Shades of Green Landscape Architecture, original photo on Houzz

2. Vibrant vignette. Bring a hit of color to your patio with a vivid combination of red, orange, gold and chartreuse succulents. For outdoor displays, choose succulents that deepen in color when exposed to sunlight, such as some varieties of echeveria and hens-and-chicks (Sempervivum tectorum).

This bright mix in a San Francisco Bay Area backyard includes orange ‘Sticks on Fire’ milk bush (Euphorbia tirucalli ‘Sticks on Fire’, zones 10 to 11), lime green watch chain (Crassula muscosa, zones 9 to 11), orange-tipped hens-and-chicks (Sempervivum tectorum, zones 3 to 8) and gold ‘Angelina’ stonecrop (Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’, zones 3 to 11). All succulents pictured thrive in full sun.


Hillary Thomas Design, original photo on Houzz

3. Architectural statement. For a real eye-catcher, choose a focal-point plant with height and an interesting form for your succulent centerpiece. This potted snake plant (Sansevieria bacularis) underplanted with succulents makes a graphic statement from across a room. Up close, one can appreciate the cast-stone vessel and pale stones nestled around the base of the plants.

When combining taller plants with succulents, be sure that they have the same light and water needs. The snake plant works well since it can tolerate very low water and variable light conditions.


 Living Gardens Landscape Design, original photo on Houzz

4. Contemporary beachy. In this Southern California backyard, a trio of repeating succulent arrangements forms a laid-back yet contemporary centerpiece. The plantings include two types of echeveria (Echeveria glauca and E. glauca var. pumila) as well as Crassula ‘Blue Waves.’

Landscape designer Sacha McCrae offers a tip to re-create this lush look at home: “Fullness is key,” she says, “so we squeeze the plants in — no soil should be showing when you are finished.” She also recommends limited water and positioning the centerpiece out of direct, baking sunlight to help the tenderer succulents retain their pearly-gray color. This particular arrangement receives morning sun.


Loftus Design LLC, original photo on Houzz

5. Mermaid-inspired. Instead of using a ceramic container for this succulent centerpiece, designer Bridget Gasque used a giant faux clamshell to put together a beachy indoor arrangement. She planted a variety of succulents, including maroon-tipped echeveria and green-and-white-striped zebra plant (Haworthia fasciata, zones 9 to 11), and filled in the gaps with clumps of preserved moss.

While the succulents need only minimal water, the preserved reindeer moss will retain its soft texture with misting every few days. The succulents would grow best placed on a windowsill with bright indirect light.


Chango & Co, original photo on Houzz

6. Repetition. Sometimes the simplest centerpiece designs can be the most effective. In this Litchfield, Connecticut, backyard, a lineup of five knobby containers, each planted with a green aeonium (Aeonium sp., Zone 9), forms a charming tabletop display. One’s eye is drawn to the repeating form of the chunky containers and fleshy succulents — both of which have a strong tactile quality.

To recreate this look, position a trio or quintet of the same containers (perhaps varying the heights) planted with a single variety of succulent, such as rosette-forming aeonium, echeveria or tiny tree-like jade plants (Crassula ovata, zones 10 to 12). Aeonium, like the ones pictured, would grow best in filtered sunlight.


Related: Spruce up Your Outdoor Living Space in the Hudson Valley

Serve This Fresh Zucchini Slaw With Creamy, Spicy Dressing

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Adobe Stock | Photo by Noirchocolate

Make this healthy and refreshing side dish for outdoor barbecues and lunchtime snacks alike to improve on the store-bought stuff.

If you’re looking for a colorful, crunchy way to add more veggies into your life, look no further! This easy-to-prepare slaw is a must for summer barbecues and light lunches when the temperatures rise.

Zucchini Slaw With Creamy Spicy Dressing

Serves: 4-6 as a side dish

Ingredients:

2 medium zucchini, ends trimmed
2 yellow summer squash, ends trimmed
4 carrots, peeled and ends trimmed
1 red bell pepper, cored and seeded
4 scallions
2 Tbsp fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
½ cup light mayonnaise
1 Tbsp mustard (I used Dijon; cut it by half if you don’t love mustard)
2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp sea salt
½ tsp black pepper

Method:

Using either a mandolin fitted with the thin julienne blade, a julienne peeler or a sharp knife, cut the zucchini, summer squash, carrots, and red bell pepper into 2-inch pieces and place into a large bowl.

Chop the scallions by hand and add them and the chopped parsley.

Combine the mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper in a small bowl using a whisk.

Pour over the julienned vegetables and toss well. Season with more salt and pepper to taste.

Serve immediately or chill until ready. Slaw keeps in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Enjoy!

Note: Recipe adapted from Fresh Every Day by Sara Foster. I doubled the amount of carrots, halved the amount of mustard in the dressing, and halved the black pepper. Find the full version of this recipe, along with more photographs, here.


Felicia Levinson is the founder of Unwritten Recipes, a blog about her adventures in baking and cooking. She was a professional dancer, toured 42nd Street, and has taught at dance studios in New York and the tristate area. When not experimenting in the kitchen at her home in Larchmont, Levinson writes musicals, comedies, dramas, and revues with her partner of more than 20 years.

The Origins and History of Corned Beef and Cabbage

Adobe Stock | Photo by Brent Hofacker

Here’s how the humble meal of hearty protein and vegetables became a “traditional” Irish dish and a part of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.

Even if you aren’t Irish, you’ve probably enjoyed, or at least heard of, corned beef and cabbage — a dish traditionally eaten on St. Patrick’s Day. I’m Irish and every March 17th, my mom cooks corned beef and cabbage, with a side of potatoes, and bakes Irish soda bread. I felt it was safe to assume that since St. Patrick’s Day is the only day of the year we eat this meal that it was a traditionally Irish dish. To my surprise, corned beef and cabbage did not originate from Ireland – and the meal isn’t actually Irish at all. Here’s exactly what corned beef and cabbage is and why we eat it on St. Patrick’s Day.

Corned beef is a cut of meat similar to brisket that has been salt-cured. The term “corned” comes from the usage of large grained rock salt, called “corns,” used in the salting process. Today, salt brines are more popular.

Corned Beef Sandwich
Corned Beef is also excellent in place of pastrami.

Corned beef and cabbage’s popularity took shape during Irish immigration to the United States. Pork was the preferred meat in Ireland since it was cheap — if you’ve ever been to an Irish diner you’ve most likely seen Irish bacon on the menu. In Ireland, the high price of cattle meant the animals weren’t slaughtered for food unless they were old or injured; they were too important for milk and dairy production and farming. In contrast, beef was inexpensive in the United States.

When the Irish immigrated to the U.S., they often faced discrimination and lived in slums alongside Jewish and Italian groups. It was at Jewish delis and lunch carts that the Irish experienced corned beef and noticed its similarity to Irish bacon. Cooking the corned beef with cabbage was another choice based on cost efficiency. Even better, the entire meal could be cooked in one pot, making it cheap, easy to prepare, and, let’s not forget, — tasty.


Related: Get Your Soda Bread Fix at These 5 Local Bakeries

Make the Yummiest Thumbprint Cookies for Every Season

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Photo courtesy of Josephine D’Ippolito

The buttery shortbread cookies are incredibly versatile and easy-to-prepare treats that will please your entire family throughout the holidays.

Thumbprint cookies, in their endless varieties, are a staple during the holidays. The sky’s the limit on creativity when it comes to thumbprints, which can be assembled with chopped nuts, shredded coconut, even crushed candies, but sometimes, simple is better. As uncomplicated as it gets, this cookie features cream cheese and strawberry jam. It’s a classic combination that comes together in less than an hour and is a hit with everyone, adults and children alike.

Strawberry Thumbprint Cookies

Makes five dozen cookies

Ingredients:

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3 oz cream cheese
1 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
½ tsp vanilla
2 ½ cups flour
½ tsp salt
Strawberry jam

Strawberry thumbprint cookies
Photo courtesy of Josephine D’Ippolito

Method:

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Using an electric mixer, mix butter and cream cheese until fully incorporated. Add sugar and mix. Add egg yolk and vanilla. Gradually add flour and salt, scraping down sides of bowl in between mixing. Mix until dough comes together easily when picking up a small handful.

Roll dough into small balls (about ¾-inch in diameter) and place on cookie sheet. For small, consistent cookies, use a small cookie scoop and then roll into balls, making sure the dough is perfectly smooth when rolled.

Press fingerprint into center of each ball and fill with 1/4 teaspoon jam.

Bake for 9 to 10 minutes, until the bottoms are just barely start to color. Allow to sit for at least half hour before serving.

Your Summer Cookouts Need This Tasty Apricot Brussels Sprout Salad

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Adobe Stock | Photo by Ruslan Mitin

This refreshing side of brussels sprouts, aged gouda, pistachios, and more is flavorful and very easy to make.

Bianca Russano, personal chef and owner of About The Table, shares an easy summer salad that her family loves.

Brussels Sprout Salad with Gouda, Apricots, and Pistachios

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 pound brussels sprouts; trimmed, halved and very thinly sliced
1/2 cup aged gouda cheese, shredded
1/2 cup dried apricots, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup shelled pistachios, toasted and chopped
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 small shallot, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Whisk lemon juice, olive oil, mustard, shallot, garlic, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add the shredded Brussels sprouts and toss. Let sit for at least 30 minutes.

Stir cheese, apricots and pistachios into salad. Serve.

Herb-Marinated Grilled Chicken Breasts Are a Hit for Summer

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Adobe Stock | Photo by Wirestock

This herb-marinated grilled chicken recipe is simple, easy to prepare, and flat-out fabulous for outdoor dining.

If you’re planning a barbecue this weekend and looking for an easy chicken recipe, this is the one!

Foster’s Herb-Marinated Grilled Chicken Breasts

Serves: 6-8

Ingredients:

8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 3 pounds)
½ cup dry white wine
4 Tbsp olive oil
4 Tbsp fresh chopped herbs (I used chives, thyme and parsley)
2 shallots, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 lemons, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper, to taste

Method:

Place chicken breasts in a large shallow glass baking dish. Pour wine and olive oil over them evenly and sprinkle with the herbs, shallots and garlic. Turn the chicken breasts several times to coat them well.

Top the breasts with lemon slices and marinate in refrigerator for several hours or overnight. Before cooking, remove from refrigerator and let sit about an hour until room temperature.

Set grill to high heat.

Remove chicken from marinade and set aside lemon slices. Season chicken with salt and pepper and grill on hottest part of the fire for about 7-9 minutes per side, spooning leftover marinade over each as they cook.

Meanwhile, grill the lemon slices for a couple of minutes per side until slightly charred. Remove from grill and set aside.

Move chicken away from direct heat, close lid, and cook for another 5 minutes until cooked through (you may need to do this longer if you like your chicken more well done).

Remove from grill, place on a platter, and top with grilled lemon slices. Cover loosely with aluminum foil for about 5 minutes to let the chicken rest. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

Note: Recipe adapted from Fresh Every Day by Sara Foster. Find the full version of this recipe, along with more photographs, here.


Felicia Levinson is the founder of Unwritten Recipes, a blog about her adventures in baking and cooking. She was a professional dancer, toured 42nd Street, and has taught at dance studios in New York and the tristate area. When not experimenting in the kitchen at her home in Larchmont, Levinson writes musicals, comedies, dramas, and revues with her partner of more than 20 years.

Make This Fresh Tomato Salsa Recipe for Taco Night

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Adobe Stock | Photo by grinchh

This salsa is chock-full of so many great flavors and textures: chopped red pepper, jalapeño, red onion, lemon and lime juice, and, of course, a boatload of fresh tomatoes! It’s so bright and fresh and full of springtime flavor, and you can tailor it to your preference and make it as mild or spicy as you like it.

Fresh Tomato Salsa

Yields about 6 cups

Ingredients:

7 medium tomatoes (I used beefsteak), cored and chopped
14½ oz can tomatoes, chopped or diced with juice
4½ oz can mild green chile peppers, diced
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and diced
1 red onion, diced
1 jalapeño, seeded and diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lime
1-2 tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
¼-½ tsp red pepper flakes

Method:

Place all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix together well.

Taste and add more seasonings if you like your salsa spicier.

Serve immediately, or chill for 3-4 days in an airtight container. Enjoy!

Note: Recipe adapted from The Foster’s Market Cookbook by Sara Foster. I swapped out the ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro and added the parsley instead, because no one in my house really loves cilantro. I omitted the 2 teaspoons ground cumin entirely. I also cut the salt down by half and lowered the amounts of black pepper and red pepper flakes. If you like your salsa spicier, just add more of these. Find the full version of this recipe, along with more photographs, here.


Felicia Levinson is the founder of Unwritten Recipes, a blog about her adventures in baking and cooking. She was a professional dancer, toured 42nd Street, and has taught at dance studios in New York and the tristate area. When not experimenting in the kitchen at her home in Larchmont, Levinson writes musicals, comedies, dramas, and revues with her partner of more than 20 years.

This Apple Crumb Pie Recipe Is a Fan-Favorite Dessert

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This pie is sort of a cross between apple crisp and apple pie, which to me is like the meeting of the best of two worlds. When you take it out of the oven, the topping gets all golden brown — but you can see bubbling brown apple gooeyness in the crevices. It’s so tempting to cut into it right away, but if you do the whole thing just falls apart, so try and be patient!

Apple Crumb Pie

Prep time: 30 minutes (not including chilling and rolling out the pie dough)
Bake time: About 1 hour and 10 minutes
Serves: 8-10

For the pie crust

2½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and rechilled until ready to use
½ cup frozen solid vegetable shortening, cut into ½ cubes (I used Crisco)
5 Tbsp ice water (maybe more)

For the filling

½ cup sugar
3 Tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
10-12 apples (I usually use Granny Smith, but often mix them with Honey Crisp or another firm, slightly tart variety), peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice

For the streusel topping

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into small cubes and chilled

apple crumb pie apple crumb pie with ice cream

To make the pie crust

Using a food processor, blend flour, sugar, and salt. Add butter and shortening cubes and pulse until mixture looks like coarse meal.

Transfer to medium-sized bowl and add ice water, using a fork to mix until dough begins to come together. Add more water by the teaspoonful if it seems too dry.

Gather dough into a ball and turn out onto a flat surface. Divide in half and and flatten each into a disk. Wrap each disk in plastic and chill for at least 2 hours (preferably overnight).

Remove dough from refrigerator and let sit to soften if it seems too cold to roll out.

Lightly flour a board or work surface. With a lightly floured rolling pin, working from the center out, roll the dough into a 12-inch circle, lifting and rotating several times to make sure it’s not sticking.

Loosely roll dough around rolling pin to transfer, very carefully, over the pan. Unroll it, gently pressing dough down into a 9- or 10-inch extra-deep pie plate. Trim overhang and crimp edges using your thumb and finger to make the indentations. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 375ºF.

To make the filling

Place apples in a large bowl.

Combine sugar, flour, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Pour sugar mixture over apples and toss well to coat the slices.

Spoon apples into the pie pan. Sprinkle with lemon juice and place the pie on a cookie sheet. Set aside.

To make the topping and finish the pie

Mix the flour and sugar in a medium bowl. Add cubed butter and, using a pastry blender, mix until it resembles coarse meal.

Carefully place the mixture over the apples, pressing down so that the crumb adheres to the apples. If any falls over the side onto the cookie sheet, gather it together and press it on top.

Bake for about 1 hour and 10 minutes, until top is golden brown and you can see juices bubbling below.

Cool on a wire rack until firm enough to cut.

Pro tip: You can make this one day ahead and store at room temperature; reheat in a 300ºF oven for about 15-20 minutes before serving if you like. Enjoy on its own or with vanilla ice cream!

Note: Pie crust is adapted from Bon Appetit magazine. Filling and crumb are loosely based on Apple Crumb Pie from Kathleen’s Bake Shop Cookbook, by Kathleen King. Find the full version of this recipe, along with more photographs, here.


Felicia Levinson is the founder of Unwritten Recipes, a blog about her adventures in baking and cooking. She was a professional dancer, toured 42nd Street, and has taught at dance studios in New York and the tristate area. When not experimenting in the kitchen at her home in Larchmont, Levinson writes musicals, comedies, dramas, and revues with her partner of more than 20 years.

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