Breads · Brunch · Uncategorized

Going Bananas!

I’ve been spending the summer determined to relax and rest with the kids as much as possible. Even though we have been doing occasional outdoor activities, it is so darn hot and we don’t feel the need to keep up with the sun-scorched Jones. We are natural home bodies, and it is wonderful to do nice projects with them around the home or yard. We’ve been doing a fair amount of cooking and testing recipes for the freezer too. The reason this is so important to us is because during the school year, and when sports come back into season for our family, it feels like we have an activity nearly every night. This gets taxing on me since I have an infant and still fight on a daily basis to keep my thyroid energy levels optimal. As a result, I love doing as many things as I can in advance to lighten our burdens once it is the busy season.

I’ve been going bananas! Literally, bananas are constantly on my mind lately. Hah. It’s officially summer time in the valley, and for Las Vegas that means HOT. We like to eat as much fresh produce as possible this time of year to keep our bodies hydrated and not overheated. Sadly, one of the fruits that gets passed over is the overripe bananas. My family isn’t terribly picky. We all love bananas, but once one of them gets a bruise, my kids think it is ruined. That means I had to come up with a way to not let them go to waste. This was particularly difficult as I’ve never actually found a banana bread recipe which I absolutely loved. I mean, they’re all good, but none of them are outstanding.

I think I finally found the perfect banana bread recipe. It is adapted from Nigel Slater’s black banana cake. Instead, I decreased the amount of sugar because bananas are already sweet enough without help, and I increased the volume of the recipe to make it more practical for a large family. The best part? These beautiful loaves freeze wonderfully!! It will last up to 4 months in the freezer when packaged properly. Just take it, parchment paper and all, and wrap it up in a bread bag, and a freezer bag after that. When you’re ready to use it, pull it out of the freezer 8 hours in advance or the night before.

Golden Banana Bread

Prep

Cook

Total

Yield 1 loaf

Ingredients

2 medium, ripe bananas

1 (half cup) stick room temperature butter

2 ounces brown sugar

2 ounces granulated sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 cup flour

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

Optional:  10 oz. of your favorite chocolate chunks (I prefer 70% soy-free chocolate chunks)
and/or 8 oz. of chopped walnuts or pecans.

Instructions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Grease and line with parchment one 2lb bread tin.

Mash bananas with a fork in a small mixing bowl and set to the side.  In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugars.  Add bananas, mix.  Add eggs and vanilla, mix until smooth.  Gently stir in the flour and baking powder.  Do not over mix or it will make the bread tough.  Fold in optional chocolate chunks and nuts.  Spoon batter into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until lightly golden brown around the edges.

Tip: A plain toothpick should be able to come out clean when inserted into the center of the banana bread.

Uncategorized

Ultimate Fudge Brownies (pt 1)

I want to introduce you to my ultimate fudge brownie recipe…

Soon. (Don’t hate me! I can explain.)

Tonight I’ve done it with a twist.

I’m always experimenting with ways to simplify life without robbing myself of the rich rewards of a worthwhile labor. It’s not that brownies are labor intensive by any standard, but when you’ve got many little ones who pull your attention in multiple directions, it is best to plan ahead in order to keep your domestic crown perfectly in place no matter when or how you are needed.

Tomorrow is the night I will actually need to bake the brownies, because my daughter wants to bring them to school on Thursday morning; but I wanted to get the mess out of the way so we had little to worry about tomorrow. Because of that, I’m experimenting tonight: dry brownie mix two ways…

Dry mix #1 has an exciting (to me) ingredient in it: powdered butter. Now, don’t turn your nose up at it just yet. Let’s look at the benefits. For starters, if you buy a box brownie mix at the grocery store, it will ask for crap oil which, in my opinion, has no place in a GOOD brownie. (Just don’t lower yourself to that standard, I beg you.) Second, this has enabled me to create a nearly fool proof solution to the lofty goal of buttery, chocolatey brownie instant gratification. Just add eggs, water, and mix. Similar to the box crap on grocery store shelves, no? (No! Better!)

Yes, this is entirely the reason for making the dry mix two ways tonight. Tomorrow night I want to do a side-by-side comparison and decide for myself if this is as good as the product claims. If it is, which is what I hope, then can you imagine how many batches of delicious brownie mix I will be making?! Ahem… purely for simplifying my life as needed, of course. No midnight episodes of chocoholic instant gratification here! (Hah. Believe what you want. I confess, you’re most likely half right.)

So… that leads me to Dry Mix #2. It will contain the regular amount of melted butter as usual. I have no doubt that these will be as decadent and sinful as usual. It’s a wonder I haven’t gone down the dry mix road before now, isn’t it? I cannot wait to report back to you how it goes. Who knows what other avenues it will enable us to explore in the near future?

Stay tuned for an update in the coming days.

Uncategorized

Blue Moon Gems

There’s a Blue Moon-Super Moon-Blood Moon-Total Lunar Eclipse this week. What a cool thing to look forward to! It is the first time in over 150 years that this combination has taken place. With this coming up, I though it would be delightful to put something cute and new into the blogosphere for people to enjoy.

Blue Moon Gem Cakes– so cute!

I adore the glossy, iridescent sheen they have, don’t you?

Alas, they did not turn out as well as I hoped. I mean, theyre still incredibly cute, and a great first attempt at a recipe concept, but I dont believe they’re OMGee Good.

So, I was talking with my sister, who was awesome enough to come partake in this new endeavor, and we agreed that showing the troubleshooting is every bit, if not more, important as showing a perfect product. Truth be told, I feel like it gives someone more “street cred” than simply pretending to be perfect. And believe me, I am far from perfect, though I like to sum it up saying that I am fabulously flawed.

I was probably doomed to fail from the start. I recommend that you never create a new recipe when you are still trying to regain your sense of smell and taste after a recent cold. It won’t work. Because its a blue moon, my husband asked for blueberry. I’ve been dying for a velvet cake lately, so I created a hybrid. Blueberry and chocolate go surprisingly well together, too!

Homemade blueberry syrup went into the cake. Look at that steaming dark sweetness. Although I cut the sugar back in my velvet recipe, the syrup still added a bit too much sugar to the cake.

You can see from the glossy crumb structure that the sugar content is too high for this sponge. I believe the amount of leavener was too high as well. At this point, however, I was already in it, so I decided to carry it out to the end. I froze them, iced them with a cream cheese icing (actually it was a no bake cheesecake recipe which I love, but let’s be honest, those are practically synonymous). After spending the night in the freezer once more, they were ready for their debut in a glossy, new coat.

Here’s where the troubleshooting really gained momentum. In all our experience baking and decorating cakes for the public, neither my sister nor I had ever used a mirror glaze. Really, it was so straightforward that anyone can do it, but it’s always more fun with great company, don’t you think?

This is what the gorgeous glaze looks like before colors being added. I should also note that this was batch #2. We tossed the first batch. Here is what we learned:

  • Use bright, white sweetened condensed milk. The first can we used looked like dulce de leche. It was caramelized decadence, from which we happily enjoyed leftovers drizzled over sliced fruit as we worked. Sadly, this produced a tan base color for our mirror glaze, which we did not want.
  • Melting candy buttons such as Wilton’s brand truly do work better. They are brighter white than real white chocolate and they have a lower melting point, which is half the reason they are a fool proof for so many applications. We originally used a high quality baking white chocolate, and it not only added to the tan color, but also took forever to emulsify.
  • Shimmer dust does not achieve a good base color; rather, use gel food coloring for the hue you desire and use shimmer dusts for iridescent undertones and finishing accents instead. In addition, it floated back to the surface when it sat to rest.
  • Lastly, no matter how long you have frozen your cakes, buttercream or icing Does Not work as well as fondant would have. It has such a high fat content and low melting point that the over all appearance of a dark cake with light icing was slightly degraded. My only plea is this- do not buy fondant. Always make it yourself if you can. I will provide a tasteworthy recipe for that in the future. Also, in favor of fondant, you wouldn’t have to freeze the covered cakes the night before, which means this could all be done in the same day for a fresher product if desired.

To be fair, this is supremely rewarding to do, even if they weren’t perfect.

And we may have an edible slime recipe in the works for you and your little ones in time for Halloween this year!

Conclusion: No matter how your recipe lacks in gastronomic perfection, as long as you have great company, good music, terrible singing, and scandalous humor, there is no such thing as failure.

We will have the perfected version of Blue Moon Gem cakes perfected for you all to make, with ease, in time for the next blue moon this March. Until then, be sure to prepare for this upcoming lunar nonpariel. Let me know if you have anything exciting planned for it.

You can read about it here: https://qz.com/1189777/a-supermoon-and-total-lunar-eclipse-will-coincide-for-the-first-time-in-152-years/

Thoughts · Uncategorized

Auld Lang Syne

The very loose translation of “auld lang syne” is time gone by. More specifically, it is Scots language, not to be confused with Gaelic, from the lowlands of Scotland, and means, “old long since.” In 1788, Robert Burns penned the ancient poem which until then had only existed as an unwritten poem amongst the older folks.

Between 1560 and the 1950’s, Christmas was banned in Scotland. This likely contributed at least a little bit to the strong tradition of celebrating the new year, or Hogmanay as the major holiday of the end of the year.

Hogmanay is the last day of the calendar year and celebrates the coming of the new year. People still share gifts and visit one another’s homes for celebrations and general good cheer.


2017 was a difficult year. Among the general experiences which life often offers, my family lost some special relatives and one of our best friends. New Years Eve was our late best friend’s birthday (and wedding anniversary) and it was tough not getting to wish her well on her special day. My husband was recovering from an illness and we stayed inside in the warmth of our home with our children for an intentionally quiet evening. It gave me the opportunity to ponder the wonderful relationships we have been blessed with in our lives and to cherish the memories of times gone by. We definitely rose a glass to the joyful memories of times long since.

My favorite thing about Hogmanay and New Years Eve is a tradition celebrated not only in Scotland but also other parts of the world called First Footing. It is believed that the first guest to step foot into your home in the new year will become an indication of the general fortune your family and home will experience throughout the new year. For my family, that was my sister, and she came with cookies! If that’s any indication of how our year will play out (fun times with best family and friends, special recipes, and treats), then I have no complaints here. She didn’t even know that she was our first foot until I told her later on.

Some may argue that this is superstition, but I believe that we get out of life what we put into it. If we invest in spreading positive energy, hopefully positivity will also come back to us. This is indeed a tradition that our family is going to follow from now on. Hopefully it can gain popularity here in the rest of United States soon.

We are already two weeks into the new year. What are some of your reflections from last year and this new year?

Breads · Brunch · Uncategorized

The 12 Days of Christmas, Day 11: Pumpkin Pie Bread Pudding

Make your Christmas morning SIMPLE with this make-ahead show stopper. All you need to do is pop it into a preheated oven, before you unwrap gifts and it will be ready when you are.

This pumpkin pie bread pudding is a dream recipe because it is not only ridiculously simple to make, but it uses simple, inexpensive staples most everyone always has on-hand in their kitchen.

Pro tip: Always keep a loaf of stale french bread on top of your fridge or in your bread box. Its a great multi-tasker, whether for bread crumbs, bread pudding, or more.

In my fridge recently sat a lonely, partial can of pumpkin just begging to be used up. With the big holidays I try my best to prepare as many dishes in advance so that I don’t have to deal with many messes on the big day, so this was a no brainer. We don’t (yet) have a traditional breakfast which we do on Christmas mornings because our children are small and enjoy pretty much everything. This year I concluded, who doesn’t love bread pudding? It’s easy, versatile, and potentially more nutritious (or at least less unhealthy) than so many other breakfast staple options.

20171222_2120531700193818.jpg
Preparing to go into the oven!

You will need:

9×13 casserole dish, liberally buttered

1 loaf of stale bread, cut or torn into approximate bite size pieces

1 cup melted butter

12 eggs

2 cups pumpkin puree

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 cups whole milk

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

pinch of salt

Whipped cream

Maple syrup

Toasted pecans

Directions: Cube bread and place into greased casserole dish. Drizzle melted butter over stale bread. In a large bowl, beat eggs, whip puree into eggs, then add sugar, salt, pumpkin pie spice, and vanilla, and mix until combined. Slowly incorporate milk, one cup at a time. Pour over the bread and butter. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes or until sides are lightly browned and a toothpick comes out mostly clean from the center.

Serve with whipped cream, maple syrup, and toasted chopped pecans.