Saturday, January 2, 2016

Banana & Ginger Honey Cake and (BONUS recipe!) Homemade Vegetable Broth

A 2015 NPR story about food waste notes that Americans throw away about 1/3 of our available food. So this year, I've resolved to try to waste less food.  Maybe banana cake and bread is a bit cliche in that regard, but instead of tossing out the bananas that get too ripe before I can eat them, I am peeling them, putting them in a baggie and freezing for the future.  Here's a nice banana honey cake from the National Honey Board that I adapted and served for a dinner with some good friends a few nights ago.  It's a sturdy, pound cake-like cake, that's even better if it sits for a day.  

We're also saving almost all of our vegetable scraps in a bag in the freezer and making vegetable broth with them.  Scroll down for the bonus recipe!

Banana & Ginger Honey Cake
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1-1/4 cups honey
3 Tablespoons sour cream
1 Tablespoon grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 eggs
2 very ripe bananas, mashed (thawed if frozen)
1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger (optional, but nice!)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour a Bundt pan. Sift or whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and ginger together and set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and honey together until light and fluffy, about three minutes.  Add the sour cream, lemon zest and vanilla extract and mix to combine well.  Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing to combine well after each one.  Add the flour and mix just until it's well combined (don't over mix).  Fold in the crystallized ginger and nuts.  Pour into the prepared pan and bake in the center of the oven until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40-45 minutes.  Cool for about 15 minutes and then turn out on to a plate.  When fully cooled, tightly wrap with foil or plastic wrap. Enjoy!

Bonus Recipe:  Homemade Vegetable Broth from Food Scraps
As you peel and prepare vegetables for other meals, save the scraps that you don't use in a freezer bag, adding to the bag every time you have some scraps.  Onion peels, carrot scrapings, ends of celery, mushroom stems, sweet red or green pepper seeds, leek tops, garlic peels and ends, parsley and other herb stems--all work well. Hot pepper seeds will make a very spicy-hot broth, so use them sparingly.  Also, skip strongly-flavored cruciferous vegetables like cabbage leaves, broccoli stalks and Brussels sprouts, which tend to overwhelm the broth. 

When the bag is full, place the contents in a large stock pot and, over low heat, slowly braise them so that they begin to release their juices. Check and stir the pot regularly to be sure the veggie scraps don't burn.  Once the scraps are fully thawed and have released their juices, pour in enough water to cover, add a handful of peppercorns and a good measure of salt. You can add other flavorings, too, like bay leaves or thyme, if you'd like. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to very slowly simmer the broth for about an hour or two, stirring occasionally. Strain the broth and taste, adding more salt or other herbs if desired.  If you want a very clear broth, then don't press too hard on the scraps when straining.  Compost the scraps.  You can place the broth in containers and freeze for future use or turn the broth into a nice soup that day.  

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