Archive | January, 2009

From the Archives {recipe: banana cake muffins with cream cheese icing}

26 Jan

So I have a hard time with banana bread mainly because I am pretty picky about it. It’s just that so many things can go wrong with banana bread…too mushy, too dense, too gooey, too dried-out, too many nuts, not enough nuts…I know you know, we have all had a bad piece of banana bread.


(Until a few days ago) I never made a banana bread recipe that I liked, each one fell subject to one of the qualifiers above. But not today, friends.

This recipe is fantastic.


banana cake muffins with cream cheese icing.

adapted from The Cake Book by Tish Boyle, 2006.

makes 24 muffins.

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1 ½ cups well mashed very ripe bananas (about 3 large bananas. this is easiest is the bananas are in the turning-brown stage, they have more flavor and a better texture for the muffins)

½ cup sour cream

11 TBSP unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

6 TBSP canola oil

1 cup granulated sugar

½ cup packed brown sugar

3 large eggs

1 ½ tsp vanilla extract

1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Position rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350F. (note for all baking: if you are using a dark, nonstick pan – reduce your baking temperature by 25 degrees) Line muffin pans with muffin cups.

Stir together the cake flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon into a medium bowl and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine the bananas and the sour cream; set aside.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter at medium-high speed until creamy, about 45 seconds.

Add the oil and both sugars and beat at high speed until creamy and light, about 3 minutes.

At medium speed, add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.

Beat in the vanilla extract.

At low speed, add the 1/3 of the flour mixture and mix until just blended. Then add 1/2 of the banana mixture and mix until just blended, then repeat (1/3 c flour mixture, 1/2 c banana mixture) and finish by mixing in the last 1/3 of the flour mixture. Mix until just blended, no need to overbeat in this step, it can make your muffins too dense later.

Optional: stir in the walnuts by hand. Scrape the batter into the muffin pans(I used and ice cream scoop).

Bake for 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cool and frost.

cream cheese frosting.

1/4 cup butter, softened to room temperature

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature

1 pound (3 3/4 cup) confectioners’ sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Combine all ingredients in large mixing bowl; beat well until smooth.



Beat the Tricky Weather {recipe: best granola}

20 Jan

Did you ever read Sybil? That is what our weather has been like. It’s cold, then hot, then cold again – all in one day. One day it will be cold in the morning and hot in the afternoon, and the next day it will be hot in the morning and cold in the afternoon. What’s a girl to wear? Is the daily question. But really, what’s a girl to cook? Is my eternal mantra, and the weather sometimes jacks up my plans.

No one wants to come over to your house and have soup when it’s 85 outside. And likewise, your ice cream is not as endearing when it’s skimming below freezing outside.

And on top of that, the allergies. I don’t have bad ones, but it seems like most do. The closest I come is our dog, who gets these horrible bumps inside his ears and on his legs and gnaws at his feet so long and intently that you wonder if he will make it to summer with any feet at all. That’s all to say I can’t imagine those ailments manifesting in my own body. Relentless allergies. 

Can you give us a foolproof recipe for unpredictable weather and allergies?

I can.



I have made many a failed batch of granola, but those days are over. This is a forgiving recipe full of hearty nutrients. It will be great for any time of year and any time of day, for that matter. I eat this granola for breakfast, or a snack, or dessert. 

This granola is full of honey. Use local honey to help build up you resistance to allergens!

Go for it and buy organic oats and cereal. You’re already making your own granola, go all-out to make it good for you! If you don’t like something, leave it out! If you love something, add more! That’s the beauty of granola.



3 cups oats 

1 ½ cups nuts, chopped (I used almonds and cashews)

¼ cup flax seeds

½ cup sesame seeds

2 generous cups cereal (I used puffed brown rice cereal and something that was cheerio-type)

2 cups dried fruit, chopped (I used cranberries, cherries and dried apples)

1 cup honey or brown rice syrup

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon butter

¼ cup brown sugar 

¼ cup molasses

2 teaspoons vanilla


Preheat oven to 350. Spread first 4 ingredients on 2 9×13 pans and toast for about 15 minutes, you’ll be able to smell  the toasted nuts. Remove from oven and stir in fruits and cereal.

When the pans cool, grease or butter them.

Meanwhile, heat the honey, salt, sugar, molasses, and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until ingredients are combined. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla.

Pour honey mixture into bowl with oat mixture and stir to combine.

Spread the mixture evenly into pans. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the granola turns golden. It will be soft and and sticky.

Let the granola cool for about 5 minutes, then remove from pan and spread on waxed paper. Let rest until completely cooled.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 10 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.


Original post:

“Rice Cakes Have Changed!” {recipe: rustic italian bread}

19 Jan



My gmail ads today proclaimed, “rice cakes have changed!” I don’t know whether to be disappointed in gmail for not understanding my need for spice and flavor and variation, and thus, suggesting a sub-par, bland snack; or disappointed in myself for not resonating culinary interest enough. I may need to re-evaluate. 

To combat perceived boring-ness, I give you fancy bread! Breadmaking can be extremely scary–yeast and gluten and numbers of times to knead, but this bread is affectionately called “no-knead bread.” It is easy. I promise. You can also call it “70-cent bread” because that is about how much it costs. Scooch yourself over to Whole Foods and you’ll pay $4 for this baby.  It’s crusty on the outside, and soft and airy on the inside. This bread makes for a good start to a panini, and it great toasted for crostinis or bruscetta.

Bread, like ice cream, when store-bought often has lots of reallylongintenseword ingredients. Bread, also like ice cream, when made at home is very minimal. 


Anyways, I don’t have much time today, so I will give you a quick recipe for bread that tastes like it comes from a fancy Italian cafe on a side street in Napoli. It’s quick (because maybe you, too are short on time) but but people will think it took hours of perfecting.

Rustic Italian Bread

from The New York Times

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1¼ teaspoons salt
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Original Post:

Free Cookbooks! {recipe: ben and jerry’s chocolate peanut butter ice cream}

16 Jan

Wouldn’t it be awesome if there was a place you could go and just borrow cookbooks? New ones come out all the time, and their crisp pages and glistening pictures lure me in through Amazon and at Barnes & Noble. But at $20+ a hit, cookbooks may be a worse habit than cigarettes. 

Even then, I get a cookbook and make a few recipes, and then it sits on the shelf and collects dust as I become infatuated and adulterous with the next latest book . Flavor of the week, if you will. I eventually go back to my old favorites, but I increasingly think that I could pare down my collection to a few staples

Back to the borrowing cookbooks. I found a place where you can just go borrow cookbooks. For free. You can keep them for 3 or 6 weeks and I think you can take up to 20 at a time! 

It’s called the library.

I am pretty sure I have not been to the library since Amelia Bedelia books. Oh, except for that three-year stint in college when I buried myself in the quiet stacks of the Benson studing Spanish poetry or the bustling PCL, coffee in one hand, stack of print Bacon’s books in the other – trying to create (what we thought was a) mock pr/ad campaign for a performing arts center that turned out to be real under a professor who turned out to be in charge of that project. For real. 

Anyhow, I think I heavy college books supressed memories of the endless interesting books I would bring home after trips to the library with my mom. There’s a library by our house and I popped in the other day, and found myself in the cookbook section. Floor to celing cookbooks.

I carefully picked one to start with: Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream and Dessert Book. This would surely be a good way to use the whole milk that I accidentally bought.

First I made sweet cream. It was decent, not great. No fault to B&J, I just tried to make a lighter option by using less cream and more milk. 

Then, I made this recipe. It is fantastic. I took no shortcuts and am reaping all of the benefits. It tastes like a creamy, cold reese’s peanut butter cup that melts in your mouth. 

I know, I know, enough with the chocolate, lady. Chocolate’s mainstream, and a usual crowd-pleaser, so try it. Plus, go look in your freezer at your icecream container. It likely lists 30+ ingredients, often artificial, that are putting nothing but fillers and crap in your body. Try out this icecream, 8 fresh ingredients and you can pronounce all of them.


Jerry’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream,

from Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream and Dessert Book

note: If you don’t have an icecream freezer, buy this one if you have a KitchenAid Stand Mixer already; if you don’t have a stand mixer, save yourself the expense and another kitchen appliance and follow Dave’s instructions.

2 oz. unsweetened chocolate

1/3 c. unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/2 c. milk

2 eggs

1 c. sugar

1 c. heavy whipping cream

1 t. vanilla extract

1 cup peanut buttter

Melt the unsweetened chocolate on top of a double boiler over hot, not boiling, water. Gradually whisk in the cocoa and heat, stirring constantly, until smooth. (The chocolate may “seize” or clump together. Don’t worry, the milk will dissolve it.) Whisk in the milk, a little at a time, and heat until completely blended. Remove from the heat and let cool. 

Whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in the sugar, a little at a time, then continue whisking until completely blended, about 1 minute more. Pour in the cream and vanilla and whisk to blend. 

Pour the chocolate mixture into the cream mixture and blend. Blend in the peanut butter until smooth. Cover and refrigerate until cold, about 1 to 2 hours, depending on your refrigerator. 

Transfer the chocolate mixture to an ice cream maker and freeze following the manufacturer’s instructions (see note, above).


Original Post:…butter-iceream/

Bistros and Babies {recipe: fresh italian pizza}

15 Jan

Not my babies, just to clear that up. 

From mandolas pizza

We often frequent the Triangle in Austin. I was in college when the Triangle was built, and all I could think was what in the world are they going to fill this development with? It was a huge mixed use space, and I was adamant that no one would ever want to go there. 

You want to know what’s there? Awesome restaurants. Farmer’s Market. Coffee

You know who wants to go there ? Me. All the time.

See, we go to this little italian bistro called Mandola’s because they have this pizza. I would say I love  Mandola’s , and I have only had one item off of their menu. This goes completely against my instincts. I always love to try new things and I roll my eyes at the thought of going somewhere and ordering the same dish as last time. Why would you even do that? You already know what it is going to taste like!

That’s it. It’s like fancy bread with salad on top. Most nights I couldn’t think of a better meal. We’ve eaten that bistro pizza with friends, and family. We split a large one six ways the night that Amber-Rose and Adam told us that they were pregnant with Matea. I ate it with Erika when she was just pregnant with baby Knox, and didn’t even know it yet. Mandolas also has wonderful chocolate cake, carrot cake, italian cream cake…and more. At least I diversify my desserts?

Anyhow, the pizza is simple. It’s a nice, thinner crust baked with proscutto, provalone, and mozzarella cheese, then they pull it out of the oven and throw on top aurgula that as been tossed in lemon and olive oil and fresh salt. 

So, naturally, we had to make it at home. At Sam’s and Whole Foods, they sell a deliciuos flatbread that you have to eat fast (or pass on to your neighbors) because it won’t fit in your freezer, so I started with that. If you want to make your own dough, go for it, but if you’re hungry NOW, grab something prepared. I also used chicken instead of proscuitto.


From mandolas pizza

Fresh Italian Pizza

serves 2

1  pizza crust

3/4 lb chicken breast, cut into 1-inch cubes

1 t. oregano

2 c. mozzarella cheese, shredded

10 cherry tomatoes

4 cups arugula or fresh spinach

3 T. olive oil

2 T. lemon juice

salt and pepper


Turn on the broiler. Saute chicken in a skillet with a pinch of salt and pepper, and the oregano until cooked through. Put chicken on crust and sprinkle with cheese. Broil 90 seconds 4 inches below the broiler coil.

Halve tomatoes. Toss greens with olive oil and lemon juice, scatter atop pizza when it comes out of the oven. Top with tomatoes and a sprinkle of salt.

From mandolas pizza

Original Post:

Pipe Dreams {recipe: strawberry crumb bars}

14 Jan


From Strawberry Crumb Bars

Last night we had a group meeting with an asundry smattering of couples. We ate cookies like these and drank coffee and talked about things that we want to have an affect on in this city. We talked about hanging out with pregnant teens.  We talked about meeting our neighbors and bringing meals to the elderly around us. We talked about  selling everything and traveling the world for 11 months, or helping people sharpen their skills to find jobs in our current economic climate, or having a block party. Working with AIDS victims. Writing to death row inmates.  Playing with kids who need a break.

Sometimes it’s all a pipe dream, right?

Sometimes it’s not. 

I was humbled to find that all of those things are happening already. Erin and Chris are literally selling all of their stuff to see what’s going on in the world for a year. Carrie and Matt will open their home up to neighbors they don’t even know yet. Katy’s off to Haiti on Sunday to learn about experience healthcare needs that come with poverty and starvation. And then she’ll be in Seattle, to learn more. Laney hangs out with special needs kids and jumps at the opportunity to help out teen moms. Laney is pregnant herself  (just gave a whole new meaning to ‘jumping’ to help, huh?).  Kara and Wes work with women who just need to talk after they’ve had an abortion. Erika has  a pen pal who will never again see the free world.

Oh, and no one thinks they’re special. They all just wish they could be doing more. These are genuine people that aren’t high-and-mighty enough to think that they’re out there single-handedly changing the world. They’re just trying to have an impact on people. To teach someone else from what they’ve been taught or the experiences that they have had. And, in turn, learning from whatever people they’re with. It’s all two-way. It’s all relational.

We ate these bars last night as we talked. They’re very similar to this recipe, but better, I think. Frutier. Anyhow, fruit bars seemed flippant in light of our conversation.  Go. Do something.This world needs you. You need it. That’s what I walked away with, along with a strawberry stain on my yellow shirt, but that is neither here nor there.

From Strawberry Crumb Bars

As I write, these leftover strawberry crumb bars are bring eaten as breakfast and one of Jon’s meetings this morning. I love things that double for dessert and breakfast.


Strawberry Bars

1 c. white sugar
1 t. baking powder
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cold butter, cut into cubes
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 T. lemon juice
5 cups frozen strawberries
1/2 cup white sugar
4 teaspoons cornstarch

Preheat oven to 375. Line a 9×13 pan with foil and butter the foil. 

Mix together 1 cup sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt. Use two knives or a pastry cutter to blend in the butter. Stir in the egg. Dough will be crumbly and seem like it won’t stiick together. If will. Push two-thirds of the dough into the prepared pan.

In another bowl, place the strawberries. Add 1/2 cup sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice. Gently mix. Sprinkle the strawberry mixture evenly over crust and sprinkle remaining dough over the berry layer.

Bake one hour, or until the top is slightly brown. Cool completely before cutting into squares.

From Strawberry Crumb Bars

Original post:

Baby Deacon {recipe: chocolate dulces}

13 Jan
From mexican chocolate cookies

Steve and Carey welcomed Deacon Garcia a week ago last Saturday morning at 2:58am. Carey is one of those women who is having contractions weeks before there is any hint of a baby, and she just pummels through them – waiting and waiting. Deacon was no exception. Finally, Carey and Steve headed to the hospital Friday evening and Deacon was born not too long after. 

We got a chance to go by and see the Garcias pre- and post-baby, Carey and Deacon were so at ease on the latter visit. We  also brought some mexican chocolate fudge cookies which were delicious. I will say I couldn’t tell what they would be like from the recipe, but they turned out great.

Chocolate Dulces

from Austin Entertainers

2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/4 c. sugar

1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk

1/2 c. butter

1 c. flour

1 c. chopped nuts (I used walnuts)

1 t. mexican vamilla


Preheat oven to 350.

Combine chocolate chips and sugar in a double boiler (a pot over a pan of hot water). Cook over hot water until blended, stirring frequently. Add condensed milk and butter, stirring until blended.


From mexican chocolate cookies

Remove from heat. Stir in remaining ingredients and let stand for 10 minutes.

Drop dough by teaspoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 10 mimnutes. Remove and place on a sheet of waxed paper to cool.

From mexican chocolate cookies
From mexican chocolate cookies