Favorite Banana Bread

Years ago, I stopped searching for a better banana bread.  This recipe ticks all the boxes: easy, packed with bananas, and exceptionally moist.

Sliced Banana Bread with melting butter

It’s no secret I’m an Anglophile, especially in my choice of TV programmes (I couldn’t resist). My current favorite, to no one’s surprise, is the Great British Baking Show. Saturday mornings, before getting my own bake on, I treat myself to an hour of Mary Berry, Paul Hollywood, a tent-full of amateur bakers and those classic only-in-Britain colloquialisms, such as “scrummy” and “oh my giddy aunt,” that I’m dying to introduce into the common American lexicon.

Before bed, when I’m brain-dead and in need of mindless comfort, nothing beats Escape to the Country; Brits house-hunting for their perfect “chocolate box” countryside cottage. I’ve picked up a few British idioms during my viewing of this show as well – like the aforementioned “chocolate box” as well as “homely.” “Homely” to the Brits doesn’t mean the same as “homely” in the states. It’s their term for homey, comforting, cozy. “The snug with wood-burner is quite homely.”

Combining the two shows leads me to this recipe, which can only be described as “homely baking” – I can almost imagine pulling freshly- baked tins of quick bread from my “range cooker” in my exposed-beamed Yorkshire kitchen, thatching optional.

Years ago, I stopped searching for a better banana bread. This recipe from Saveur ticks all the boxes – easy, packed with bananas, and exceptionally moist.


Favorite Banana Bread

  • Servings: One 9” x 5” loaf pan
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This moist banana bread is quick to make, packed with flavor and my go-to recipe when overripe bananas are on hand.


Ingredients

  • Butter for greasing pan
  • ⅓ cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 1 cup flour, plus more for pan
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • ⅔ cup chopped pecans or walnuts
  • 3 very ripe bananas, mashed

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9” x 5” loaf pan with butter and dust with flour; set aside. In a small bowl, combine milk and white vinegar and set aside
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar, oil, curdled milk, vanilla, egg and egg yolk. Pour wet ingredients over dry and whisk until just combined. Fold in nuts and mashed bananas.
  4. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until dark golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the loaf comes out clean, about 60 minutes. Let cool for 30 minutes before slicing and serving.

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Best Compost Cookies

Everything Cookies

Last week, a male reader questioned a slang word in one of my posts – “mansplaining.” He hadn’t heard the term.  Merriam-Webster describes mansplaining as, “what occurs when a man talks condescendingly to someone (especially a woman) about something he has incomplete knowledge of, with the mistaken assumption that he knows more about it than the person he’s talking to does.”

Some men consider the term to be a sexist Feminist word describing a non-existent phenomenon.  I am here to assure my male readers that mansplaining exists.  I’m not asserting that women don’t do something similar to men or that men and women don’t do it to each other – but mansplaining is a specific type of behavior perpetrated by men that, at one time or another, most women have experienced.

The larger category of behavior would be categorized (for men and women) as “talking out of your ass.” Example:  A childless woman, who has changed exactly 3 diapers in her life, telling a parent of 5 children the best way to change a diaper = talking out of her ass.  Within the larger “talking out of your ass” category is the subset “Mansplaining.”  It’s real, it happens…trust me on this.  My ultimate mansplaining story:

A male friend tried to “educate” me on what it’s like to have a menstrual cycle. Yep – I. Swear. To. God.  Kudos to him for reading one article about the female body.  High five for learning words like “follicular phase” and “luteal phase,”  however,  knowing the words doesn’t mean he will ever understand what it’s actually like to have a cycle until he’s experienced – oh, I dunno, 12 a year for 30+ years.

I’d never be so bold as to tell him what it’s like to have an erection – no matter how many articles I’ve read or how close I’ve…ehem… been to the experience.

Not all men mansplain.  How do you know if you’re a mansplainer? If a woman responds to your explanation with, “You DO realized I have a degree in (fill in subject here)” [and you don’t] or “Were you aware (fill in subject here) has been my CAREER for the past 10 years” [and it’s not your career] or even a “I’m familiar with (fill in subject here) since I’ve been doing it since I was 12.” [and you’ve only read about doing it], then…you are a mansplainer.  But there’s hope – the first step is admitting it.

This recipe is an ode to non- or recovering mansplainers in my life.  You deserve a cookie – a rock-star of a cookie like these compost cookies, inspired by Momofuku’s Compost Cookies.

Best Compost Cookies

  • Servings: 18 – 20 Cookies
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All my favorite cookie flavors – plus some surprises – packed into this version of Momofuku’s famous cookie.

Ingredients

  • 1 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ⅔ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 1 egg
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup mini chocolate chips
  • ½ cup toffee bits
  • ½ cup sliced almonds
  • ½ cup shredded coconut
  • ½ cup Graham Crust (see below)
  • ⅓ cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 ½ teaspoons ground coffee (not instant)
  • 2 cups kettle potato chips
  • 1 cup pretzel thins, roughly broken or mini pretzels

Directions

  1. In a small bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Set aside.
  2. Combine the butter, sugars and corn syrup in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and cream together on medium-high for 2 to 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the egg and vanilla, and beat for 7 to 8 minutes.
  3. the speed to low and add the flour mixture. Mix just until the dough comes together, no longer than 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula.
  4. Add the chocolate chips, toffee bits, sliced almonds, shredded coconut, graham crust, oats and coffee, and mix just until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Fold in the potato chips and pretzels. Don’t overmix – try to keep the potato chips in large chunks.
  5. Using a ¼ cup measuring cup, portion out the dough onto a parchment-lined sheet pan. Slightly flatten the tops of the cookie dough domes. Wrap the sheet pan tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, or up to 1 week. Do not bake your cookies from room temperature—they will not bake properly.
  6. Heat the oven to 375°. Arrange the chilled dough a minimum of 4 inches apart on parchment- or Silpat-lined sheet pans. Bake for 18 minutes. The cookies will puff, crackle and spread. After 18 minutes, they should be very faintly browned on the edges yet still bright yellow in the center. Give them an extra minute or so if that’s not the case. Cool the cookies completely on the sheet pans before transferring to a plate or an airtight container for storage.


Graham Crust

A fancy version of a graham cracker crust. You can use your own version for the recipe above if you prefer.


Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs
  • ¼ cup powdered milk
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • ¼ cup heavy cream

Directions

  1. Toss the graham crumbs, milk powder, sugar and salt with your hands in a medium bowl to evenly distribute your dry ingredients.
  2. Whisk the melted butter and heavy cream together. Add to the dry ingredients and toss again to evenly distribute. Eat immediately, or deploy as directed in a recipe. The crust is easiest to mold just after mixing. Stored in an airtight container, graham crust will keep fresh for 1 month in the fridge or freezer.


Compost Cookies

Homemade Energy Bars – Blueberry Muffin

Homemade Blueberry Muffin Larabar
When I started back to work in late February, I’d awake at 6:00 a.m., make myself a frothy cappuccino, warm a homemade muffin and spend the next 45 minutes leisurely reading the news while curled up on the couch, sipping coffee and nibbling baked goods.

Alas, that morning tranquility didn’t last.

These days, you’ll find me dragging myself from bed closer to 6:45 a.m., gulping down an espresso with a splash of milk, racing to work, and grabbing a prepackaged Lärabar for breakfast.

Lärabars are my energy bars of choice because they’re made with real, simple, non GMO ingredients. Sure, they may have a few more calories that some “thin” bars and less protein than others with 20 grams of whey, but they’re real food – made with a handful of familiar ingredients.

This weekend, I realized that real ingredients meant I could make them myself – and choose my own flavors, my own handful of ingredients; make my own breakfast again – even if it isn’t a warm, baked muffin.

Commercial Blueberry Muffin Lärabars aren’t made with lemon zest or cinnamon – those are my addition, just like my real blueberry muffin recipe.

Homemade Energy Bars– Blueberry Muffin

Homemade energy bars packed full of flavors and simple, healthy ingredients.


Ingredients

  • 2 cups raw cashews
  • 1 cup packed dried blueberries
  • 1 cup packed dried apples
  • ½ cup packed pitted whole dates
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Line an 8×8” cake pan with wax paper including an overhang. Place the cashews in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped and resembling breadcrumbs. Add blueberries, apples, dates, zest, cinnamon and vanilla extract. Process until the fruit is finely chopped and the mixture begins to clump together. This will take a few minutes and the mixture will get warm in the processor.
  2. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan. Place additional wax paper atop the mixture and use it to flatten evenly in the pan and blot away any extra cashew oil on top. Leave the wax paper in place and refrigerate for 30 minutes to firm up.
  3. Flip the pan over onto a cutting board, remove the pan and the wax paper. Cut into eight 4”x2” bars. Tightly wrap each bar in plastic wrap. The bars will keep at room temperature for up to 3 days or in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

Carrot Apple Oat Muffins

Moist Carrot Apple Muffins

It’s 9:00 p.m. on a quiet Wednesday night. The dishes are drying in the sink, the floors have been swept and there’s nothing but re-runs on television. My mind begins pondering other things…naughty things. I switch on my iPad and begin surfing Google images. After a few attempts, I hit the jackpot. My iPad and I make our way into the other room. I adjust the lights, setting the mood, slip into something more comfortable and then…

I preheat the oven to 350 degrees, un-nest my mixing bowls and get right to it. Carrot Apple Oat Muffins – oh yes, baby, YES!   What did you think I was talking about?


Carrot Apple Oat Muffins

  • Servings: 10-12 muffins
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At the point I added cream cheese frosting, I think these stopped being muffins and moved into cupcake territory.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup Quaker oats
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 Granny Smith Apples, grated
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • ½ cup currants, softened in boiling water
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a muffin tin or use papers. Combine flour, oats, , sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and salt in a large bowl. Add apples, carrots and currants and stir until they are coated in flour. Beat together eggs, buttermilk, oil, molasses and vanilla in a small bowl. Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients and combine thoroughly. Do not over-mix.
  2. Fill each muffin cup ¾ full. Baked for 15-20 minutes and until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in muffin tin for 10 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack until cooled completely.
  3. To gild the lily: Frost cooled muffins with cream cheese frosting.

Originally posted July 2015

Tropical Fruit Salsa

Tropical Salsa
“That one should be disqualified – that’s not salsa. It’s good, but it’s not salsa,” He whispered while pointing to her Tupperware container.

In celebration of Cinco de Mayo, her office was holding their annual salsa-making competition. Never one to go the traditional route, she had decided on a Tropical Fruit Salsa – a twist on the same ol’ tomato, onion, and chilies. She knew her flavor combinations weren’t for Everyman – and now there was “controversy” over whether her tropical fruit version was actually even salsa.

She smiled to herself – always seeming to end up in some sort of controversy. She knew it was good, even thrown together in 20 minutes the night before – even if most of them didn’t “get” it. Hers was only Tupperware actually empty at the end.

She couldn’t wait for the annual chili cook-off.


Tropical Fruit Salsa

  • Servings: about 4 cups
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A cooling tropical salsa that pairs well with warm summer days and backyard barbecues. Choose ripe fruit for the best flavor.

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups mango, chopped
  • 1 cup kiwi, chopped
  • 1 cup pineapple, chopped
  • ¼ cup red onion, chopped
  • ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 – 1 ½ fresh serrano chile, seeded and finely chopped
  • 4 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon toasted cumin seeds, slightly crushed
  • ¼ t. salt

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, combine mango, kiwi and pineapple.
  2. In a small bowl, combine red onion, cilantro, serrano chile, lime juice, cumin seeds and salt. Pour over tropical fruit.
  3. Let salsa sit for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld. Adjust seasoning and serve with tortilla chips or freshly grilled fish.