Monday, March 30, 2009

Banana Cake with Chocolate-Peanut Butter Frosting

You know what's sad? When you make a super delicious cake and forget to photograph it. So pictures for this post. Just an easy and very yummy cake recipe that is sure to please anyone who loves the chocolate and peanut butter combination. And really, who doesn't?

Rose Levy Berenbaum's Banana Cake with Chocolate-Peanut Butter Frosting
cake recipe adapted from Joy of Cooking
frosting recipe original to "Apple a Day"

For the cake:

2 large very ripe bananas
2 TBSP sour cream (I always use reduced fat)
2 large eggs
2 tsp. grated lemon zest
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. cake flour
3/4 c. plus 2 TBSP sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
10 TBSP unsalted butter, softened

For the frosting:

11 oz. (one bag) semisweet chocolate chips
1 c. unsalted butter
1 c. smooth peanut butter, preferably natural
2 tsp. vanilla extract
approximately 2 c. confectioners' sugar


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9x13 pan.

2. Combine banana and sour cream in a food processor or mash together with a fork if banana is soft enough.  Add eggs, lemon zest, and vanilla to processor. Process until well combined or whisk together.

3. In a large bowl, whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt until combined.

4. Add half the banana mixture to the dry mixture along with all the butter. Beat on low speed until the dry ingredients are just moistened. Increase speed to medium and beat for 1 1/2 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Gradually add the rest of the banana mixture in two batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition.

5. Scrape batter into pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes.

6.  Meanwile, make the frosting by placing the chocolate and butter in the top of a double boiler over (not touching) barely simmering water. Heat, stirring often, until the butter and chocolate are almost melted.  Just before chocolate and butter are completely melted, add peanut butter and vanilla and stir to combine.

7. Once ingredients are completely melted, remove from heat and set aside to cool approximately ten minutes.
8.  Add confectioners' sugar, adjusting to desired thickness, and beat until combined and creamy.  Store in the refrigerator until approximately 30 minutes before needed.

9.  When cake has cooled completely, frost with frosting brought to room temperature.

One year ago: Chile-rubbed steak tacos with avocado cucumber salsa and vegetarian ranch beans and chicken and wild rice soup

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Juicy Strawberry Scones

Another winner from Katie, these scones are a wonderful breakfast for a spring or summer morning. I had them on my list to make, and when I saw this gorgeous container of strawberries on sale at the grocery store, I knew it was time to give it a shot.

The scones came together very quickly, though I did have to play with the wet ingredients just a bit to get the dough to come together just enough. (As many of you know, I live in Phoenix and the dry climate often has this effect on baking.) I'd suggest starting with 2 1/4 c. flour and the called-for amount of wet ingredients and taking it from there.

Juicy Strawberry Scones
seen on Good Things Catered

2 1/4 - 2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour (depends on ripeness of strawberries)
1/4 c. granulated sugar, plus extra for sprinkling (I used Turbinado for sprinkling)
1 TBSP baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
8 TBSP (1 stick) butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
1 egg
1/4 c. low-fat plain yogurt
1/4 c. milk (I used skim)
2 tsp. orange zest
1 c. fresh strawberries, diced

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheet with Silpat or parchment paper.

2. In small bowl, combine egg, yogurt, milk, zest, whisk to combine thoroughly and set aside.

3. In large bowl combine flour, sugar, powder, salt, and whisk to combine.

4. Using pastry cutter or two knives, cut butter into flour until all pieces are smaller than pea-sized.  Add strawberries, and toss to coat.

5. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix in lightly with fork until dough just comes together.  Turn dough out onto well floured work surface and pat into large ball.

6. Cut dough in half. Shape half of dough into flat disk shape and cut into 8 slices. Place on baking sheet and repeat with other half of dough. (I omitted for larger scones.)  Sprinkle tops of scones with sugar and place in the oven.

7. Bake until turn slightly brown, about 25 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool on baking sheet for 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool (or eat right away!)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Mango Rum Sorbet

You know those commercials where some girl takes a bite of chocolate and she's instantly transported away from work, away from screaming babies, and away from any other stresses? Yeah. I hate them too. There is no way one bite of ANYTHING--not even chocolate--could make all of that go away.

I. was. so. wrong.

Make this sorbet now. Do. not. wait. Seriously.

As soon as I opened the lid to the food processor and smelled the sorbet base, I was in Jamaica. Granted I'm on spring break, it's 80 degrees out, and I'm listening to "Hot Child in the City", but still. Jamaica. Paradise. I can't wait to serve this as dessert to my friends and family this summer when I throw my tropical-themed dinner party. Wanna come?

mango rum sorbet

Mango Rum Sorbet
adapted from David Lebovitz, The Perfect Scoop
printer-friendly recipe

2 large or three medium ripe mangoes (ataulfo is you can find them)
2/3 c. sugar (less if mangoes are very sweet)
2/3 c. water
3 TBSP citrus juice (calls for lime; I used orange pineapple)
3 TBSP dark rum
pinch salt


1. Cube the mangoes and place in food processor or blender.

2. Add sugar, water, citrus juice, rum and salt. Try to squeeze out all the pulp and juice from the pits.

3. Purée the ingredients until smooth. Taste, then add more lime juice or rum until satisfied.

4. Chill the mixture throughly in the fridge for at least two hours, then pour into your ice-cream machine and let it churn and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

5. Pour out the slushy sorbet into a container and freeze for at least a few hours.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Dirty Risotto

Who doesn't love an easy, one pot meal? Well, technically you need two pots--but only for warming the broth. And who doesn't love an easy two pot meal? Who doesn't love just about everything Giada deLaurentiis makes? That's what I thought. This easy weeknight meal is a winner sure to please everybody!

Dirty Risotto
adapted from Giada De Laurentiis, Giada's Family Dinners
5 c. reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 TBSP butter
2 oz. pancetta, chopped
6 oz. spicy Italian sausage, casing removed if not ground
3/4 c. finely chopped onion
1 c. chopped red bell pepper
4 oz. button mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 c. Arborio rice or medium-grain white rice
3/4 c. dry white wine
1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesan
1 c. chopped fresh spinach
1/4 c. chopped fresh I
talian parsley

1. In a medium saucepan, bring the broth to a simmer. Cover the broth and keep warm over low heat.

2. In a large heavy saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the pancetta and sausage and saute until golden brown, about 5 minutes.

3. Add the onion, bell pepper, and mushrooms and sauté until tender, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan, about 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

4. Add the rice and stir to coat. Add the wine and simmer until the wine has almost completely evaporated, about 1 minute.

5. Add 1/2 cup of simmering broth and stir until almost completely absorbed, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking the rice, adding the broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and allowing each addition of broth to absorb before adding the next, until the rice is tender but still firm to the bite and the mixture is creamy, about 25 to 30 minutes total.

6. Remove from the heat. Stir in 3/4 of the Parmesan, spinach, and parsley.

7. Transfer the risotto to a serving bowl. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan and serve immediately. Serves four as a main course or six as a side dish.

One year ago: Meyer lemon ice cream

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

St. Patrick's Day Chocolate Chip Cookies

Most of my friends will be out tonight drinking themselves silly. Not me. I'll be teaching ballet to my adorable little dancers. And I'm not even one bit upset about it. Honestly, I'm not. I love spending time with my little girls. They work so hard and remind me of why I love dancing so much. As incredible as it was to achieve my own dance goals, it's a thousand times better watching them achieve theirs. And none of that causes a hangover...

st. patrick's day cookies
St. Patrick's Day Chocolate Chip Cookies
proportions and ingredients adapted from America's Test Kitchen
original recipe

2 c. plus 3 TBSP all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
12 TBSP (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted & cooled until warm
1 c. golden brown sugar, packed
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 large egg plus 1 yolk
2 tsp. almond extract
3/4 c. semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 c. white chocolate chips
green food coloring (amount depends on desired shade of green)

1. Adjust oven racks to upper and lower-middle positions. Heat oven to 325 degrees.  Line cookie sheets with Silpat mats or parchment paper.

2. Whisk dry ingredients together; set aside.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix butter and sugars until thoroughly combined. Beat in egg, yolk and almond extract until combined.

4. Add dry ingredients and beat at low speed just until combined. Add in green coloring and mix only until color is mostly even. Stir in chips by hand until they are evenly distributed and green color is consistent.

5. Using a standard scoop, scoop cookies onto baking sheets. Allow at least three inches between cookies.

6. Bake, reversing position of cookie sheets halfway through, until outer edges start to harden yet centers are still soft and puffy, approximately 17 minutes.  Cool cookies on sheets until able to lift without breaking and place on wire rack to cool.

One year ago: My St. Paddy's Day feast--Traditional Irish Stew the Bailey, Irish soda bread, and chocolate pecan pie with chocolate Jack Daniel's ice cream

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Peruvian Chicken Soup (Aguadito de Pollo)

I've had this recipe bookmarked for quite some time and I sure am glad I finally got around to making it. It was simple to prep and yielded yummy, healthy results. Gotta love that!

Peruvian Chicken Soup
adapted from

3 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - cut into one-inch chunks
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 c. tablespoons olive oil
3/4 medium onion, chopped
3/4 tsp. minced garlic
2-1/4 tsp. seeded, minced serrano chile
1/3 c. chopped cilantro
1 c. green peas
1 c. corn
1 red bell pepper, chopped
8 c. chicken broth
3 Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into one-inch chunks
3/4 c. uncooked white rice (I omitted)

1. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat.  Stir in the onion, garlic, and serrano chili; cook until the onion has softened, about 1 minute.

2. Add the chicken, and continue to cook for 5 minutes.  
Stir in the cilantro, peas, corn, and red pepper; cook for 1 minute.
3. Pour in the chicken broth, potatoes, and rice. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until the chicken is opaque and the potatoes are tender, about 40 minutes. Serves 6.

One year ago:
Blackberry Banana Muffins

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

I've been wanting to do pulled pork sandwiches for quite a while now. The problem has been that I wanted to be able to make it on a day when I'd be around the house most of the day. Now, before you launch into your "the slow cooker is safe to leave on while you're gone" spiel, let me explain. I know full well that I can leave the slow cooker to do its job while I leave the house to go do mine. It's just that I haven't used my slow cooker all that much and I wanted to be around to gauge the liquid levels, how quickly the meat was cooking, etc. That way, I can become a better judge of the quantities of ingredients I'll need when I do set up my slow cooker to have dinner ready upon my arrival home from a long day at work.

This recipe was absolutely delicious. I should've known it would be. It came with the highest recommendations from Bridget, a great cook, fantastic photographer, and all-around nice girl. So take my word and Bridget's--set this roast to cook all day and enjoy a delectable weeknight dinner.

Oh, and for all you Yankees out there--don't forget to put the cole slaw ON your sandwich, not beside it.

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork
rub by Cook's Illustrated, adapted from Way the Cookie Crumbles
method slightly adapted from Bridget

2TBSP ground black pepper
1-2 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 TBSP chili powder
2 TBSP ground cumin
2 TBSP dark brown sugar
1 TBSP dried oregano
4 TBSP paprika
2 TBSP table salt
1 TBSP granulated sugar

1 (4-7 lb.) pork butt
½ tsp. liquid smoke (optional)
2 c. barbecue sauce
1. Mix all spice rub ingredients in small bowl.
2. Massage spice rub into meat. Wrap tightly in double layer of plastic wrap; refrigerate for at least 3 hours. (For stronger flavor, the roast can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.)
3. Unwrap roast and place it in slow cooker liner. Add liquid smoke, if using, and 1/2 cup water. Turn slow cooker to low and cook for 8-10 hours, until meat is fork-tender.
4. Transfer roast to cutting board; discard liquid in liner. “Pull” by tearing meat into thin shreds with two forks. Discard fat.
5. Place shredded meat back in slow cooker liner; toss with barbecue sauce, and heat on low for 30-60 minutes, until hot. Serve on toasted buns with additional barbecue sauce and cole slaw.

Classic Coleslaw

This slaw is simple and delicious, just the way it should be. Make up the entire batch the night before and let it sit--the flavors will just get better.

Classic Coleslaw
adapted from Gourmet, June 2008

2 1/2 lb. green cabbage, shredded or finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 large carrot, grated
1 TBSP black pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 c. light mayonnaise
1/3 c. cider vinegar
2 TBSP granulated sugar

1. Toss all vegetables in a large bowl with salt and pepper.
2. Whisk together mayonnaise, vinegar, and sugar, then toss with slaw. Chill, covered, stirring occasionally, at least 1 hour (overnight is better).

Friday, March 6, 2009

Cranberry-Ginger Scones

Much like this same time last year, I'm in a push to use up the fall and winter ingredients still hanging around my pantry. It's a funny thing--every September, I stockpile dried cranberries, crystallized ginger, and cans of pumpkin puree like I'm preparing for the apocalypse, rather than a gorgeous, colorful fall. But come March, I am equally excited to fill my refrigerator and fruit bowl (and belly!) with all the fresh and light delicacies that spring and summer bring.

The end of summer isn't such a problem. It's not like you can keep fresh produce around for months. One of these years, though, I'll figure out how not to overbuy on the fall pantry items. Maybe. Until then, I'll continue to enjoy the challenge of creating treats based on what I have left and the fun of eating them...

Cranberry-Ginger Scones

1/2 c. half and half, plus more for brushing tops
1/2 c. milk (I used skim)
1 TBSP real vanilla extract
2 1/4 c. flour
1 TBSP baking powder
3 TBSP sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. freshly-ground nutmeg
zest of 1/2 lemon
6 TBSP butter
1/2 c. dried cranberries
1/4 c. crystallized ginger, finely chopped
2 tsp. Turbinado sugar

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and line baking sheet with Silpat or parchment paper.

2. In a measuring cup, combine half and half, milk and vanilla and place back into refrigerator.

3. In large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and lemon zest. Whisk to combine.  Cut the butter into small pieces and add to flour mixture.

4. Cut butter into dry ingredients using a pastry blender. Stop when all pieces are the size of a small pea or less. Mixture will resemble coarse sand.

5. Make a well in the flour mixture and add the milk mixture. Stir until just combined (The dough will be quite sticky.)  Fold in cranberries and ginger.

6. Turn dough out onto a generously floured work surface.  Gently pat dough into an eight to ten inch disk.

7. Using a knife sprayed with cooking spray, cut the disk into eight pieces and transfer to the baking sheet.  Brush each piece with half and half and lightly dust with Turbinado sugar.

8. Place baking sheet into oven and bake until scones are just beginning to brown, approximately 13 minutes.  Remove from oven, let cool (still on baking sheet) on a wire rack for ten minutes.

One year ago:
Whole Wheat Pasta with Walnuts and Feta and Shrimp Fra Diavolo

Monday, March 2, 2009

Almond-Scented Cupcakes with Raspberry Filling

Tonight's cupcakes are very special for two reasons. Number one, I baked them for my roommate and I's "Bachelor" party. You know, as in a party to watch the most DRAMATIC "Bachelor" finale EVER...or so say the commercials. I purposely chose a cake that was very wedding-esque in hopes of sending proposal vibes Melissa's way. Yep, I said it. I want Melissa to win. As I was saying, I chose an almond-scented white cake because it seemed like a cake that would a very traditional wedding choice. Then, I topped the cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and, what else? Roses.

Those roses bring me to the second reason this post is special. Today is my little sister's 22nd birthday. She loves roses and I love her. I can't believe she's 22. I'm old.

Almond-Scented Cupcakes with Raspberry Filling
adapted into cupcakes from

2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1 TBSP baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
12 TBSP (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract
1 c. milk
5 egg whites, at room temperature
3/4 c. raspberry preserves, melted (increase to 1 1/4 c. for cupcakes)
raspberries (optional)
1 1/4 c. sliced almonds, lightly toasted and cooled (optional)

For the cream cheese frosting:
1 lb. cream cheese, at room temperature
6 TBSP (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 c. confectioners’ sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp. almond extract


1. Position a rack in the middle of an oven and preheat to 350ºF. Butter and flour 2 round cake pans each 9 inches in diameter and 1 1/2 inches deep.

2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.

3. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer set on medium-high speed, beat the butter until light. Gradually add the sugar, beating until well blended. Beat in the vanilla and almond extracts.

4. Reduce the speed to low and, dividing the flour mixture into 3 batches, beat the flour mixture into the butter mixture alternately with the milk just until combined.

5. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer fitted with clean, dry beaters and set on high speed, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.

6. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the beaten whites into the batter just until incorporated.

7. Divide the batter between the prepared pans; smooth with the spatula. For cupcakes, divide among 24 cups using a standard-sized scoop.

8. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the centers comes out clean, about 30 minutes (20 minutes for cupcakes). Transfer to racks and let cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Run a sharp knife around the pan sides to loosen the cakes. Invert onto racks and let cool completely.

9. Meanwhile, make the cream cheese frosting: In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese and butter. Using an electric mixer set on medium-high speed, beat until smooth. Reduce the speed to low, add the confectioners’ sugar and again beat until smooth. Beat in the vanilla and almond extracts until well blended.

10. For one layer cake, use a long serrated knife to cut each cake in half horizontally. Place 1 layer on a plate. Spread 1/2 cup of the frosting over the top, then drizzle on 1/4 cup of the melted preserves. Top with another cake layer and repeat with the same amounts of frosting and preserves. Top with a third cake layer and again repeat with the same amounts of frosting and preserves. Top with the fourth cake layer, cut side down.

11. For cupcakes, use either a piping tip or the cone method to fill each cupcake with raspberry preserves.

12. Spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides. Ring the top with raspberries, if using, and press the toasted almonds onto the sides.

13. Serve immediately, or cover with a cake dome and refrigerate for up to 1 day. Bring to room temperature before serving. Makes one 9-inch cake; serves 10 to 12.

LinkWill you accept this rose?
One year ago: Pumpkin Pie Muffins

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Cinnamon-Buttermilk Muffins

Tomorrow is Read Across America Day, honoring Dr. Seuss and all the wonderful ways he used his imagination, his books, and his life to encourage children across the country to learn to read. We have several special events going on at school tomorrow, including guest readers from the local fire and police departments, as well as officers from the nearby Air Force base.

To thank them for taking time out of their busy days to show children how important and how FUN reading can be, we are going to set up a little hospitality area with coffee, juice, and muffins. I'll be contributing these cinnamon-buttermilk muffins. They're light, slightly sweet, and leave you wanting more...just like many good books I know.

So make up a batch of these muffins and take some time to celebrate reading with yourself and your family. Happy Read Across America Day!

Cinnamon-Buttermilk Muffins


For the muffins:
7 TBSP unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 c. sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 c. buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

For the topping:
2/3 c. sugar
1 TBSP ground cinnamon
6 TBSP (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

1. Preheat an oven to 350°F. Grease a standard muffin tin with butter or butter-flavored nonstick cooking spray; fill any unused cups one-third full with water to prevent warping.

2. To make the muffins, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, combine the butter and sugar and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Add the egg and beat well until pale and smooth.

3. In another bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg.

4. Add to the butter mixture in 2 additions, alternating with the buttermilk and vanilla. Stir just until evenly moistened. The batter will be slightly lumpy.

5. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling each three-fourths full. Bake until the muffins are golden, dry and springy to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes.  Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Unmold the muffins and let stand until cool enough to handle.

6. To make the topping, in a small, shallow bowl, stir together the sugar and cinnamon. Put the melted butter in another small bowl.

7. Holding the bottom of a muffin, dip the top into the melted butter, turning to coat it evenly. Immediately dip the top in the cinnamon-sugar mixture, coating it evenly, then tap it to remove excess sugar. Transfer the muffin, right side up, to the rack. Repeat with the remaining muffins. Let cool completely before serving. Makes 9 muffins.


One year ago: Raspberry-Balsamic Chicken