Advertisements
RSS Feed

Tag Archives: blue ribbon

Velvet Banana Bread – my blue ribbon winner!


It all started in 2009 when I entered the foods competitions at the Kansas State Fair for the first time, and met a wonderful & talented woman named Colleen Woker.  We met while watching the pie judging and I asked her if she’d won any ribbons in the other competitions. She listed off approximately 241 things she’d placed in, including getting “Best in Show” for her banana bread, which as far as I understand means that her banana bread was so good, that the judges deemed it better than anything else submitted for judging in the foods competitions. I mean, it beat cakes!  CAKES! I was so impressed by her and in that moment, knew that some day I had to get myself a blue ribbon in the banana bread competition.  Little did I know it would become nearly an obsession.

In my quest to win a blue ribbon, I’ve made over fifty different banana bread recipes, and no matter how hard I tried to find the best, most perfect banana bread, the highest I ever placed was 3rd.  I really thought I was doomed to never get my blue ribbon, or even a red one.  This year I had no idea what recipe I was going to make until the day before the competition.  In fact, I had even forgotten to buy bananas in advance to let them get super duper ripe, and all I had was bananas that were still green at the stems.  Not acceptable!

I posted a last minute plea on Facebook for rotten bananas and was given some by two wonderful women (thank you Lacey & Lisa!), enough to make a practice loaf or two if I could find the time.  I decided to take my best good friend, Jackie‘s, advice and replace the pumpkin in my most favoritest pumpkin bread recipe with bananas, which she has been doing for a year.  That recipe has 1/2 cup of water in it, which I’d never ever seen in all the banana bread recipes I’ve read in my search for the perfect one, and I was so scared to try it.  I asked her probably five times, “Do you really put the water in it when you make it? REALLY?” She assured me she did, and that it wasn’t wet or gummy, but really similar in texture to the pumpkin bread.  That sold me, because that soft texture is the ultimate for me in a quick bread.

Despite my deep fears of including the water, and the temptation to replace it with something more exciting like milk or pineapple juice, I gave her idea a go, adding a touch of cardamom, and was absolutely floored by the result.  I had never in my life had such tender, soft banana bread.  And so delicious, sweet & perfectly banana-y with a the perfect balance of spices to set it off.  Unfortunately, it was one of the uglier loaves I’d ever made, and since 25% of the judging score was based on appearance, I lost all hope right there.  Because I knew it was too good not to submit, but also knew it was too ugly to win a blue ribbon. I just hoped it was good enough to win a red.

So many things went wrong in making the official loaf and my spirits sunk deeper and deeper with each obstacle. I kept questioning why I was even bothering.  This wasn’t the regular little banana bread competition, this one was sponsored by King Arthur Flour and the first place prize was a $150 gift card to their catalog, which is much bigger than the usual $9 prize.  This was a big deal, and more people would be entering than usual.  I didn’t have a chance! I was exhausted, would have loved to sleep in the next morning, didn’t want to waste the gas or the effort when I knew it was hopeless, but I’d been in the paper about the being the Banana Bread Queen Wannabe, and everyone on Facebook knew about it.  I had to go.

When I arrived to submit my bread, I noticed that everyone around me had loaves that were the same dark shiny brown, which I found unattractive.  That made me feel a little better, until I looked to see if any of my other three baked goods I’d already turned in had placed, and they hadn’t.  I knew it was going to be my very first no-ribbon year, and I went home defeated, knowing my quest might never end.

But when we returned to the fair as a family two days later, there it was. My ugly brown banana bread sitting front and center.  Next to a blue ribbon.

I squealed. I hopped around.  I squealed and hopped some more.  I think there was a lot of, “I can’t believe it!!”  I gushed my entire banana bread story to the poor couple standing nearby when my freak out started.  They were so happy for me, but everyone else looked pretty perturbed & disturbed by my antics.  I stopped myself several times from running up to random people to tell them I won.  Joshua was grinning and giggling, clearly trying to figure out what had Mom so excited.  I took his hands and we did a little celebration dance together.  When Dennis approached us (he’d been in the bathroom), I wanted to let him discover it on his own but I just couldn’t contain myself and as soon as I saw him I beamed and jumped up and down and waved him over, pointing wildly at the display case where my winning bread resided. He knew instantly of course what that meant, and he hopped up and down with me a little in celebration.  Joshua was so happy to see all the happiness and I was so happy, and Dennis was so happy, I thought all our heads might explode.

It took six years and countless loaves of banana bread, but I did it. The blue ribbon is MINE! Thanks be to God, to Jackie, Lisa, Lacey, and to Colleen for not entering the banana bread competition this year and giving me a chance.  And to everyone who has rooted for me all these years, thank you!!  My quest is complete and I couldn’t be happier to have found my very favorite recipe for banana bread and gotten the blue for it so that I never have to try another recipe again.  I’m so DONE with new banana bread recipes.  This one is definitely my new favorite, and I truly may never make another recipe again.

Velvet Banana Bread

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

1 cup (8 oz) mashed overripe banana
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 oz) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (4 1/8 oz) vegetable oil
1/2 cup (4 oz) water
2 large eggs
1 3/4 cups (7 1/2 oz) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon cardamom

Preheat oven to 350F. In a large mixing bowl, combine banana, sugar, vegetable oil, water, and eggs. Whisk until well mixed. Measure the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, nutmeg, and cloves into a separate bowl and stir until combined. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the banana mixture, beating until smooth. Mixture will be very very thin and it’s OK to mix until no flour streaks remain, but if you see little lumps of flour that won’t mix out, don’t sweat it, they will dissolve while baking and overmixing will make this tender loaf tough and dry.

Spray the bottom of a 9×5 loaf pan and pour batter in (if your pan sticks, go ahead and grease the whole thing). Bake for 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Immediately remove from pan, and cool at least 15 minutes before slicing. Remove from pan immediately and allow to cool at least 15 minutes on a wire rack before slicing. Cool completely before wrapping leftovers in plastic wrap.

Veronica’s notes: If you aren’t measuring your ingredients on a scale, please use a very light hand when measuring the flour, spooning it gently into the cup and not packing it at all before leveling it.

Also, I only left the sides of my pan ungreased because the state fair judges have disqualified me in the past for greasing the whole pan. According to them, this is a baking sin and the sides of your bread will be much more tender if you grease only the bottom. This works fine with my new nifty galifty USA Loaf Pan because it’s crazy nonstick, but if you have any other not fabulously non-stick pan, you’d better go ahead and grease the sides. I honestly can’t tell a difference in the finished loaf whether the sides have been greased or not, the judges need to chill.

Speaking of loaf pans, be sure to use a large 9×5 as this is too much batter for an 8×4 loaf pan.  If you only have a small loaf pan, make some muffins with the extra batter, but don’t fill your pan more than 3/4 full.

Lastly, if you overbake your loaf a bit (I did on the one photographed, by a couple minutes because I was busy when the timer went off), don’t forget my water trick. It works on quick breads as well as cakes! Spray the sides and bottom well with water, don’t be shy with it, and it will all absorb while cooling and soften those hardened edges right up.

Advertisements

I won! THE BLUE RIBBON IS MIIIIIIINE!


Excuse the screaming but…

I WON! I WON! I WON! I won the King Arthur Flour Banana Bread Competition at the Kansas State Fair!

I think after six years and over fifty different banana bread recipes tried, I’ve earned the right to yell a little about FINALLY WINNING A BLUE RIBBON!!! The curse has been lifted! LOL!

I know the photo is horrible and you can’t even see my name, but I will have better photos (from a friend who’s going to the fair tomorrow, I forgot my camera and had to use my horrible camera phone) and a recipe for you next week!! In the mean time, I’m going to spend the weekend doing a celebratory dance on the rooftop. Ha!

Coconut Oil Chocolate Chip Cookies

Posted on

Whoooooa Nelly, y’all.  I’ve been making the same chocolate chip cookie recipe for six years, after trying recipe after recipe and finally settling on the one I thought was the BEST and the only one worth making.  Until I made this one.  Which is much easier, and even better.

I won a blue ribbon at the 2011 Kansas State Fair for my Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies.  And these are better, in my humble opinion. :)

My ideal chocolate chip cookie is crunchy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside, and have superior flavor.  This one beats every recipe I’ve ever tried and knocks my standards out of the park.  So crispy on the outside, so melty and chewy on the inside, so chocolate & brown sugar-y, with just a hint of coconut flavor.  It’s that coconut flavor that makes it for me.  It’s not in-your-face obvious, and I’m not sure anyone who didn’t know the coconut oil was in there would be able to put their finger on the flavor, but it adds a little something extra that just kills it for me.  It’s out of this wooooorld, people.

I’m weird about labeling my recipes with “Best,” aside from World’s Best Salmon, and avoid it since my definition of best is likely different than your definition of best.  (Hint: any time you see the word “favorite” in a recipe name on my blog, that’s a recipe I consider “best.”)  So I won’t say these are the best.  I haven’t tried every single recipe, so I can’t say it’s the best. But it’s really, really good.  And definitely worth a try, even if you have already found your best.

Coconut Oil Chocolate Chip Cookies

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

½ cup virgin coconut oil, room temperature
¾ cup packed brown sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (I prefer Ghirardelli)

With a mixer, cream together the coconut oil, brown sugar, salt, and baking soda for 4 minutes on medium-high speed. Add the egg and vanilla and whip another minute. Add the flour and stir together by hand until almost combined, then add the chips continue to stir until combined. Press a sheet of plastic wrap down on top of the dough and refrigerate while the oven is preheating.

Preheat oven to 350 and line baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat mats. Once the oven is preheated, remove the dough from the fridge and scoop out enough dough to make 1-inch balls using either a cookie scoop, or a metal spoon. If the dough has become too firm, you can smoosh the balls together and roll in balls, or leave the bowl out a few minutes to soften a bit before scooping.

Space about 2” apart on cookie sheet and bake 8-10 minutes, just until beginning to brown on the edges. Remove from oven and allow to rest on the cookie sheet for 3-5 minutes, then remove with a spatula onto a cooling rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough.

Store cookies in airtight container or Ziploc bag(s) with air pressed out.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Veronica’s note: Virgin coconut oil is different from regular coconut oil and you can usually find it by the healthier oils, like extra-virgin olive oil, in a glass jar. If you have coconut oil and aren’t sure what kind you have, look for the word “virgin” on the label. If you can’t find it, it’s most likely refined, but the final test is to take a sniff. It should smell lovely, like coconut, and taste the same way. Regular coconut oil will likely work, but won’t give it the special flavor.

Recipe source: adapted from Alida’s Kitchen

Onion, Cheese & Poppy Seed Bread

Posted on

Poppy seeds go with lemon, amiright?  Maybe orange if you want to get a little adventurous.  But cheese and onion?  I wasn’t sure.  I love to try new things but I admit, I wouldn’t have made this bread if I hadn’t gotten the recipe from my Foodie Mama, and if she hadn’t told me that it was an undefeated blue ribbon winner for 25 years in California and she finally retired it to give someone else a chance. Ha!  Well, knowing it had to be good, even if it was a sweet quick bread with onions and cheese in it and poppy seeds, I made it while staying with my in-laws last week.  The loaf was devoured in less than a day. (I may have had more than my fair share.)

Marina recommended spreading cream cheese on the slices and I have to tell you, that was incredible! The tangy cream cheese really was the perfect compliment to the sweet & savory bread.  She also said if you toast the slices first, it makes an outrageous grilled ham and cheese sandwich.  Unfortunately this loaf was eaten too fast for us to try it, but I’m going to next time!

P.S. Marina still has copies of her cookbook available for purchase for $10 + $3.50 S&H. Let me know if you’d like to purchase one!  I have yet to be disappointed in any recipes I’ve tried from it.

Onion, Cheese & Poppy Seed Bread

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (3 1/4 oz) vegetable shortening
3 large eggs
2 cups (8 1/2 oz) all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon aluminum-free baking powder*
1 teaspoon dry mustard
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1 1/4 cups shredded cheddar, Monterrey Jack or a combination
1/2 cup finely diced sweet onions
Sweet paprika

Preheat oven to 375F. Grease a 9″x5″ loaf pan or coat with Miracle Pan Release; set aside.

Cream sugar and shortening until fluffy, a few minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine dry ingredients and add alternately to creamed mixture with milk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Stir in cheese, onions, and poppy seeds. Pour into prepared loaf pan and sprinkle the top with paprika. Bake 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in middle of loaf comes out dry. Cool 10 minutes in pan. Remove loaf carefully and cool completely on wire rack. Loaf is best the next day, or at least several hours after baking so that the flavors can deepen and meld.

*I always recommend using an aluminum-free baking powder, such as Rumford, in any recipe calling for more than a teaspoon. The regular kind with aluminum tends to leave a chemical aftertaste in baked goods, especially if a larger amount is used.

Recipe source: Marina C.

Chocolate-Glazed Honey Macaroons

Posted on

Once upon a time I entered some honey macaroons into the Kansas state fair and won a  blue ribbon for them.  Then I promised you I would share the recipe.  Well I may be a bit slow, but a promise is a promise!  I thought this was the perfect time since I’m giving away a gallon of coconut oil and this recipe has some in it.  I figured one of you guys would need a lot of ways to use up that coconut oil once the giveaway was over.  (I’m still packing just in case the winner agrees to let me move in until the oil is gone. hehehe)

We have a special honey class in our state fair baking competition and I won for the cookies last year.  I had never entered the honey cookies category before, but knew from looking at past year’s cookies what I wasn’t going to do, which was a flour-based cookie.  I wanted to do something different that the other bakers hadn’t.  I did lots of brainstorming and finally decided that a honey coconut macaroon might be nice.  Luckily I found a great recipe at Gourmande in the Kitchen and all I had to do was create a glaze for them.

Less heavy than a normal macaroon, these are light, sweet, tender, and very moist.  And the coconut-flavored chocolate just puts them over the top.  I love these cookies because not only are they tasty, they also are allergy friendly (gluten-free, dairy-free) and healthy (good fat & naturally sweetened).  I do hope you enjoy them!

For more coconut oil recipes, check out my Coconut Oil Coffee, Coconut Chocolate Chunk Cookies, Vegan Gluten-Free Mounds Cake, Dairy-Free White Cupcakes, Homemade Magic Shell, and Vegan Dark Chocolate Cake Pops.

Honey Coconut Macaroons

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

Cookies
2 ¼ cups (180 g) unsweetened shredded coconut
2 large egg whites
¼ cup (60 g) raw local honey
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of fine sea salt

Honey & Coconut Chocolate Glaze
¼ cup dark chocolate chips
1 tablespoon virgin coconut oil
1 teaspoon local raw honey

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

Process the coconut in a food processor until very fine.  Whisk together egg whites, honey, vanilla, and salt until combined, then stir in the coconut until completely moistened.  Using a small cookie scoop, portion out the dough onto the prepared baking sheet, about 2 inches apart.

Bake until pale golden in spots, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Make the Glaze: Place the chocolate in a small microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 30 seconds at 50% power.  Stir, then repeat. Stir until residual heats melts the chocolate completely, then stir in the coconut oil and honey. Drizzle over the cooled macaroons and serve immediately, or allow to set before storing.  It takes this glaze several hours to set up, but the cookies are so moist they will  not suffer for being left out.

Recipe source: adapted from Gourmande in the Kitchen

Virginia Street Banana Nut Bread

Posted on

George Geary (author of 125 best Cheesecake Recipes) presenting Marina with a second place ribbon for her Chocolate Truffle Brownie Cups for Ghirardelli Chocolates 2009

I announced Monday that two signed copies of Splendour in my Kitchen by Marina Castle are up for auction until Thursday night, to help raise a little extra money for Suzie’s gallbladder surgery.  (Click here for more details about half way down-there’s only one bidder so far, so you might get yourself a bargain while helping a good cause.)  This blue-ribbon banana bread (Marina has won many blue ribbons for it, actually) is just one of the many fabulous recipes found within the cookbook.   Though I’ve had the cookbook for a couple years, I just started making this recipe back in August and have been making it several times a month ever since, and lately in triple batches.  This is what I think of as a classic banana bread, but with a few twists that make it extra-special and a real treat.

Photo by Marina Castle

The best thing about this bread is its texture.  I have never had a better texture in a recipe for banana bread-it is so soft and smooth, it’s almost silky.  It is not too heavy or dense as some banana breads can be, but not fluffy as a cake either.  As Goldilocks would say, it’s juuuuust right.  It has a great banana flavor, scented with cinnamon, and the combination of nuts, sugar & butter on top give it dessert-quality decadence.

This recipe is also apparently indestructible.  I’ve been tripling the recipe and baking it up up in mini aluminum pans to sell in my sister’s shop and at the bake sale at work, and I’ve once miscalculated the amounts, and another time completely left the eggs out, and both times it was still good. Not silky smooth, but really good despite the errors.  Hey, I can get down with a forgiving recipe because I’ve had a lot of spazzy kitchen moments lately. LOL!  Anyway, if you’d like to bake up a ton of mini pans for holiday gifts, I’ve included a link for a large batch recipe so you (hopefully) won’t make my mistakes.

Enjoy!

Virginia Street Banana Nut Bread

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture
Large batch recipe–makes 3 loaves or 10 mini loaves

1 ½ cups (13 oz peeled) mashed ripe bananas
1 tablespoon melted butter, divided
½ cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups (8 1/2 oz) all-purpose flour
1 cup (8 oz) granulated sugar plus 1-2 teaspoons, divided
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped toasted pecans or walnuts, divided

Preheat oven to 325F and grease a large 9×5 loaf pan; set aside.

Mix bananas, 1 teaspoon of the melted butter, oil, eggs, and vanilla in medium bowl until well mixed. Blend flour, 1 cup sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt and add to banana mixture. Stir until mostly mixed, then add nuts, reserving some for the top,  and pour mixture into a large 9” x 5″ greased loaf pan. Sprinkle remaining nuts & sugar over top of loaf, then drizzle remaining melted butter over. Bake for 60 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool loaf in pan for 10 minutes. Remove and finish cooling on wire rack until completely cooled.  Wrap well with plastic wrap.  Loaf is the better next day.

Makes 1 loaf.

Recipe source: rewritten from Splendour in my Kitchen by Marina Castle

Suzie’s Next Day Chili

Posted on

Thank you guys for sticking with me through my “no recipes” week! I had a lot of fun with it, especially reading all your comments about the pigs you’d like to make fly on Danielle’s Flying Pig. If you didn’t catch that post, you might want to check it out–there is a giveaway for one of Danielle’s kumquat bath & body sets on it, and the deadline for entry is this Thursday. (Update: this giveaway is now closed. Congrats to Ken!)

Now, let’s get back to the recipes, shall we? I’ve got enough saved up that I’m going to be sharing all OLD recipes that I’ve been saving especially for December, which means, you guessed it, LOTS of sweets. Which is why I’m starting off with a savory recipe, to stabilize your blood sugar in preparation for all the sweetness that is soon to come your way from my blog. :)

“You know I luvs you…I have never, ever shared this recipe with anyone!! I’ve been making it for about 10 years now.  :)”

This was the note at the end of the recipe my friend, Suzie, emailed me for her Next Day Chili.  She’s been holding an annual chili cook-off in her neighborhood for the last five years and her chili has won four years out of those five.  She doesn’t allow herself to win the prize since it’s her contest, but hers is almost always voted number one!  She has kept the recipe secret, telling everyone that if they could guess some of the secret ingredients she used, she would share it, but no one ever has.  Knowing all this, I still had the audacity to ask for the recipe.  And I was pleasantly surprised when she obliged me!  (I guess I’m just irresistible, right? LOL!)

I was so excited to get my hands on such a precious recipe, and promised I wouldn’t share it on my blog, thinking she’d want me to keep the secret recipe a secret.  But she surprised me again by granting me permission to share it here.  WOW!  Thank you, Suzie!  Don’t we feel special?! :)

Usually, I like my chili with lots of beans and veggies, so I was actually pretty nervous to make this since it only has one can of beans and a scant 1/2 cup of onion for veggies.  When a friend shares a recipe with you that you’ve never tried, do you get nervous that you won’t like it?  I’m probably ridiculous, but I feel almost obligated to like a recipe that comes highly recommended from a friend, and sometimes put off making it just for the fear that I won’t like it and will have to disappoint the friend when I tell them.  But not this time!  I was nervous, but I wasn’t going to wait–this recipe is special.

Well, I needn’t have worried.  This chili is spectacular!  Spicy, hearty, meaty, with a wonderful & unique flavor. Once you scan the ingredients, you’ll see why it doesn’t taste like any other chili.  I bet you’ve never seen a chili recipe with bacon, chorizo, red wine vinegar, Worcestershire, sage, or maple syrup in it!   My husband loved it and ate most of the batch by himself.  In fact, he told me this was his favorite of any chili I’ve ever made!  This is also the only chili that Suzie’s husband will eat so I’d say this is some real man-pleasin’ chili.

Thank you, Suzie, for sharing your wonderful recipe with us!  Rock on, Chili Queen. :)

Suzie’s Next Day Chili

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

3 lbs. good ground beef
1 lb. chorizo
1/2 lb. bacon
1 tablespoon bacon grease
1 can Bush’s mild chili beans, undrained
1/2 cup diced white onion
2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons paprika
3 tablespoons ground black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt (or 2 1/4 teaspoons table salt)
1 teaspoon dried sage
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3-5 tablespoons hot sauce (depending on your taste)
1/2 cup chili powder (more if desired)
1 teaspoon dried cilantro (or 1 tablespoon fresh, chopped)
2 tablespoons real maple syrup
1-2 cups chicken or beef broth (or mix 1/2 and 1/2), depending on desired thickness
1 (6 oz.) can of tomato paste
1 (46 oz) can tomato juice
Red pepper flakes, to taste

Brown beef and chorizo. Drain grease, cover and set aside. Slice 1/2 lb. bacon into 1 inch pieces. Cook bacon until crisp, set aside on paper towels to drain off excess fat. Take 1 tablespoon of the bacon grease and add to the burger/chorizo mixture. Add all remaining ingredients, except bacon, to a large pot. Simmer for 3 hours, stirring occasionally and tasting to adjust salt, pepper, chili powder and red pepper flakes to taste. Let cool for an hour or so and then refrigerate overnight. Refrigerate the bacon separately.  Simmer again the next day for 2-3 hours, adding bacon the last hour. It’s now ready to serve.

Suzie recommends serving with homemade cornbread, so I served mine with Lighter Northern Cornbread.  I also have a southern-style Homestead Cornbread recipe if you like yours without sugar and flour.

Recipe source: Suzie S.

%d bloggers like this: