Friday, April 27, 2012

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Banana Cookies

The trend on the blogosphere lately seems to be bananas.  Banana muffins, cupcakes, doughnuts, pies, breakfast bowls, smoothies.  This is actually one of the main reasons I love bananas - they are so versatile!  Plus they have an amazing flavor and healing powers.  And unlike other fruits, even when they seem to be a little overripe it just opens up even more possibilities to use bananas!  In this house, when our bananas go overripe we mash them up with some flour and brown sugar and make the most heavenly banana bread you could ever imagine (no I am not exaggerating).  But when I saw these cookies on How Sweat Eats I knew I had found another use for my overripe bananas.  I had also found a use for my leftover Easter chocolate.

You can use either creamy or crunchy peanut butter in this recipe depending on your preference.  I love the crunchy peanut butter because of, well, the crunch.  I thought it would offset the mushy banana and melted chocolate chips nicely.  If you're anything like me, you still have some leftover Easter chocolates that you forgot about, so I chopped them up and threw them in these cookies.  Chocolate chips would work just as well too.

When you begin to mix the wet and dry ingredients, it will take a while to come together (at one point, I was even using my hands) but keep at it!  After a while, it will come together and you will have a nice, creamy batter.

These cookies are heavenly.  They fall in that category between cookie and cake; the inside is chewy and soft and the outside is slightly crispy.  And these cookies will stay soft for days (not that they'll be around that long...).  Plus, they have some of the most delectable flavors around - peanut butter, chocolate, and banana - all in one cookie!  For those of you that get turned off by peanut butter cookies (myself included), do not fret - the peanut butter taste isn't that strong.  The cookie isn't terribly sweet, which is a great and terrible thing at the same time because you can literally eat them for breakfast.  And then again for dessert.  And in between lunch and dinner.  And breakfast and lunch.  Believe me, you'll be letting your bananas go ripe just for an excuse to make these cookies!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Banana Cookies
Yield: about 30 cookies
Prep Time:  20 min
Bake Time: 10 – 12 min per pan

-                8 tbsp butter
-                1/3 c peanut butter
-                2 c + 2 tbsp flour
-                ½ tsp baking soda
-                ¼ tsp salt
-                1 c brown sugar
-                ½ c granulated sugar
-                1 egg yolk
-                2 tsp vanilla extract
-                2 small ripe bananas, mashed
-                1 c small chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325F.  Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper.

In a saucepan over low heat, melt the butter and the peanut butter.  Set aside to cool.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the melted butter, melted peanut butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until well combined.  Whisk in egg yolk, vanilla extract, and mashed banana until combined.  Add the dry ingredients about ½ c at a time, combining completely after each addition.  Fold in the chocolate chips.

Spoon dough onto prepared baking sheet and bake for 10 – 12 min, or until the edges are golden.  Allow to cool on pan for about 5 min and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.   Store in an air-tight container. 

Adapted from: How Sweet Eats

Monday, April 23, 2012

Fried Onion Rings

I'm glad I held off on this post, because I made these again recently and they came out even better the second time, thanks to some help from my brother.  The first time I had made them, I only used Panko bread crumbs to coat my onion rings.  I love Panko because it's so thick and crunchy, therefore you end up with a nice breading.  However, because it is so thick, I sometimes have trouble getting it to stick to things.  So the first time I made these onion rings, they came out tasty, but did not have as much breading as I would have liked.

When I made them the second time, my brother suggested that I mix the large, crunchy Panko bread crumbs with regular Italian breadcrumbs.  Italian breadcrumbs are much smaller and therefore help the Panko stick to the onion ring.  Plus, you can get them flavored to add some zest to your breading or even make them yourself from stale bread!  It was a great idea and the breading came out nice and thick and crispy the second time around.

Another tip for making nice, thick breading takes some extra work, but is very much worth it.  You take your onion rings, dredge them in flour, coat them in egg wash, dredge them in flour again, and then coat them in egg wash a second time.  This makes for a nice, thick base underneath your breading.  Follow this technique and you'll have delicious, crispy onion rings of your own!

One more suggestion: the more I fry things, the better my technique has become (don't know if that's a good thing or not...).  I now like to fry things in medium-sized pots rather than in frying pans because you can fit more items into your frying oil.  Plus, if you don't let the oil get too hot and strain it after each use, you could reuse your oil about 2 or 3 times.  Another thing that made frying go much smoother is I used my new cooking/candy thermometer.  If you have one, you want to keep your oil between 119 and 390 degrees F.  I know that's a large range, so I usually kept mine around the 250 degree mark.  If you do not have a cooking thermometer, it's a great investment and you can use them for melting chocolate, making puddings, and, of course, frying!  It's a very handy thing to have, and will take a lot of the guesswork out of frying.

I know these certainly are not the most healthy things you can eat, but it's a nice treat to have alongside steak or on top of a hamburger.  Plus 1 medium yellow onion makes enough onion rings for 6 - 8 people, so you can always practice moderation by reserving this recipe for a special event!

On another note, my student teaching is coming to a close.  I'm on spring break this week so I will be spending my time applying to jobs and catching up on work.  I have some posts lined about about my new garden (I'm literally starting from scratch!), so be sure to stayed tuned!

Fried Onion Rings
Yield: enough for 6 – 8 people
Prep time: 10 min
Bake time: 5 min for ea. batch

-     1 large onion, sliced and rings pulled apart
-          1 c flour
-          3 eggs, scrambled
-          1 c Panko bread crumbs
-          1 c Italian bread crumbs
-          Salt and pepper, to taste
-          2 c oil

Dredge the onion rings in flour and then coat them in the egg wash.  Repeat.  Then dredge the onion rings in the mixture of Panko and Italian bread crumbs and pepper.

Heat the oil in a medium pot over medium-high heat.  Once the oil reaches 250F, place the onion rings in the oil in batches.  Allow them to fry until golden brown.  Remove and let dry on a paper towel.  Coat in salt and pepper to taste. 

Friday, April 6, 2012

A Reflection

I know it's been almost a month since my last post, but this is the first chance I have gotten to breathe since student teaching began.  By now, I am teaching the entire day, as well as bringing the kids to their specials and to lunch.  On Wednesday, I spent almost 12 hours at school in preparation for open house.  I think the hardest thing about teaching is the fact that it is so physically and mentally exhausting.  For 6 hours, I have about 60 kids (between my math, homeroom, and science classes) who are watching my every move, hanging (but not always) on my every word.  I need to find ways to inspire them, to challenge them, and (most importantly) get them to remember the information.  And not just for a test, but teach it in a way that will stick with them for the rest of their academic careers.  When I'm not at school teaching, I'm at home planning units, planning lessons for the next few days, grading tests and projects, and trying to find a job for the summer and the fall.

There are some days I come home and reflect on every little thing that happened that day.  There were some days in which I sat on my couch and thought "I can't do this."  I feel most people do not and cannot understand what teachers must go through until they spend a couple months in their shoes.  I look at my cooperating teacher and I cannot understand how she balances her family, her life outside of school, and the needs of 60 children every day without fail.  I keep telling myself that it's something that comes with time and dedication, but it's so hard not to think I am failing because I am not at that level yet.  When I peek in the rooms of some of the other teachers in the school, I can tell they have been crafting their units for their particular grade for dozens of years.  The care and planning these teachers put into their every day teaching is remarkable and inspiring, and I hope to work towards what they have accomplished.

When you're inundated with planning or problems with students it's hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  I've tried to teach myself to think of something positive that happened each day, whether it's getting a boy with anxiety to complete the writing portion of his test or (much to my pleasant surprise) watching my 5th graders eat up my poetry lessons, which I thought they would hate.  One boy in the class, who struggles in many areas, will pull me aside to show me what he has written for my poetry lessons, his face beaming and his voice getting excited.  It's those moments that I strive to hold on to because it is the reason I want to do this job in the first place.  I want to be that person that inspires 5th grade boys to write poetry and a sarcastic and unruly science class to explore the wonders of the deep ocean.  As my student teaching is coming to a close, I'm trying to sit and reflect on the things I still need to work on in my last two full weeks of student teaching.  I fear that I will not have enough time to develop lessons in which I differentiate instruction or practice different classroom management techniques but I need to remind myself that I will have the rest of my life to perfect these things.  I am not solely limited to my time left in student teaching.  When I first entered my quarter life crisis and was trying to understand what to do with my life, I realized I needed a job that was challenging and always changing.  Teaching is just that, because even if you've been teaching Kindergarten for 35 years you're always going to have a new set of students, with a new set of challenges and things to teach you as well.

I want to be a teacher because I want to inspire others, to help them reach their fullest potential, and to give them the tools they need to succeed.  I want to design lessons that are tailored to students' individual needs, that challenge their critical thinking skills, and that inspire them to do more.  I want to be a role model to students and help guide them through some of the most difficult and rewarding years of their lives.

This post was originally titled "Fried Onion Rings," but I guess I had more to say about the past few weeks than I realized.  This post quickly went from a quick update to keep my readers interested to a deep self-reflection on my student teaching experience.  Thank you for taking the time to read this, I guess the onion rings will have to wait until another day.