Archive for the ‘Recipes’ category

handheld mixer, check

September 8th, 2009

hand-held mixer debutIMG_0962Another great banana bread recipe—and Carter’s first solo spin with a handheld electric mixer. Just like Widget on Wow! Wow! Wubbzy, who, Carter tells me, invented the Blenderoma 3000 to help Wubbzy make doodleberry pie. (Once again, I must ask myself if my child watches too much TV. At least, Widget is a positive female character who likes to invent and build things.) Carter was so excited about using the mixer that he yelled for Daddy, to “come quick.” Then he showed Jeff how to use the mixer and let him take a turn. 

I chose this Williams-Sonoma banana bread recipe for the whole-wheat flour and the fact that once mashed, the very ripe bananas my neighbor gave me equalled 1 cup. Carter and I have made similar recipes, like the  Ba-Ba banana bread and Nandini’s mini banana muffins, that employ the creaming method, where you blend together room-temperature butter and sugar. However, Carter usually exits from the kitchen when I use either the stand or the handheld mixer because he doesn’t like the noise. This is the first time Carter asked to do it himself—and then went it alone using the handheld mixer. He was proud of himself, and, needless to say, I was proud of him, too. (Tip: use a mixing bowl with a nonslip bottom to keep the bowl secure on the counter.)

We made four loaves in mini loaf pans. I don’t know if it’s the method or the stick of butter and cup of sugar (I’ll try less next time), but this is some good banana bread.

Whole-Wheat Banana Bread

1 1/4 cups whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 cup very ripe bananas, mashed, (3 small or 2 large)
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a standard loaf pan or four mini loaf pans.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. 

In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until blended—a handheld electric mixer is helpful for this step. Beat in the banana, then the eggs, one as a time, until completely mixed.

Add the flour mixture into the egg mixture and gently blend by hand just until combined (do not overmix!).

Spread the batter in the loaf pan(s) and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean, about 55–60 minutes for a standard loaf pan or about 30–35 minutes for mini loaf pans. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove and cool completely on a wire rack or serve warm.

Adapted from Muffins & Quick Breads (Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library)

Lemon blueberry oatmeal muffins

September 6th, 2009

Since I let my child eat blueberry coffee cake for dinner, I thought we’d try a healthier version of blueberry baked goods. Carter had two lemons from the tree at daycare, so I searched online for lemon blueberry muffins, with an eye toward healthy ingredients. In addition to having oats and whole-wheat flour, this recipe caught my eye because it calls for agave syrup, which we have leftover from making Finnley’s Super Muffins.

Today’s new baking concept was making a “well,” i.e., a hole, in the middle of the dry ingredients in which to pour the wet ingredients all at once. This technique is supposed to make it easier to mix the batter uniformly without the dreaded overmixing that can result in tough muffins. Does it actually matter? Probably not much. (Here’s a quick sampling of opinions from Chowhound). But it was fun to show Carter before he carefully and gently mixed all this goodness together.

I was concerned that these muffins might end up tasting “too healthy,” but even with the oats and whole-wheat flour, they’re not heavy—and Carter likes them, so they’re kid tested and approved!

Lemon Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins
1 1/4 cup oats (not quick cooking)
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 cup milk
1/3 cup agave syrup
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest (2 lemons)
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat a 12-muffin pan with cooking spray.

In medium-sized bowl, stir together the oats, flour, baking powder, and salt.

In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg, then whisk in the milk, agave syrup, vegetable oil, and lemon zest.

Make a well in the dry ingredients, pour in the wet ingredients all at once, and stir until barely combined (do not overmix!). Gently fold in blueberries.

Divide batter equally among muffin cups. Bake muffins 20–25 minutes, or until tops start to brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Adapted from Whole-Wheat Lemon Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins on Tasty Planner, contributed by Angel’s Scullery

blueberry coffee cake = fruit for dinner

September 2nd, 2009

2 pieces of blueberry coffee cake + a few bites of apple + a few sips of milk = Carter’s dinner last night. Or, as I like to look at it: 3 servings of fruit + some calcium. Not bad, considering other fast-food meal alternatives.

Needless to say, the blueberry streusel coffee cake has been a hit, which inspired me to check out other bloggers’ take on blueberry coffee cake.

Just the other day, my friend Dawn, who designs web sites for gorgeous high-end bed and breakfasts and the like (as well as Baking with Carter), recommended that I check out the baking recipes on the blog Inn Cuisine.  Food Blog Search  was like minded, pointing me to this version of  blueberry streusel coffee cake with nutmeg, butter, and lemon zest.

Kevin at Closet Cooking adds an even more pronounced citrus twist, using lemon juice in his blueberry and lemon coffee cake.

I like how Food Mahem layers the batter and struesel in a Bundt pan, because I love my Bundt pans (yes, I have several variations, although I use the classic heavy-duty one the most frequently). I’d also like to try the suggested addition of almond extract. Whipped’s Barb’s coffee cake also earns points for being made in a Bundt pan. 

For a healthy approach, Madu’s blueberry coffee cake at Eggless Cooking is not only egg-free, it’s also low fat. Maybe that would be a better dinnertime option?

Blueberry streusel coffee cake

August 31st, 2009

A giant carton of blueberries has been beckoning me all week to make blueberry coffee cake. Finally, today we had a chance after naptime. (I slept; Carter didn’t.)

Prep time can make or break baking with kids. Because all kids, mine included, have limited attention spans, I like to get out all of a recipe’s ingredients and any required gear before having Carter join me. Time was short today, so I even made the streusel topping in a mini food processor beforehand, rather than by hand with Carter, who doesn’t like noisy appliances (hence, I tend to give by-hand instructions).

I also put out small bowls to measure ingredients over, in case of spillage. Ok, I actually I do that when it’s just me, too, but it’s an extra good strategy when you have a 4 year old pouring salt into a 1/4 teaspoon.

Carter’s favorite step, aside from eating the coffee cake, is sprinkling and spreading the streusel topping.

This recipe comes from Coffee Cakes by Lou Seibert Pappas. (I had the pleasure of working with Lou when I edited Hallmark’s Home for the Holidays—an absolute steal bargain priced at $10.) Her original recipe’s streusel topping calls for 1 cup of chopped walnuts. It also recommends baking the coffee cake in a 350°F oven for 35–40 minutes, but I’ve had better success with a higher temperature and longer bake time, so you keep a close eye out for doneness. (Alternatively, Lou told me she likes to use a convection oven when she’s not timing for a book.)

You can also bake this in a regular round cake pan, but it’s easier to get out of a spring-form one, which does not have to be expensive. I use a Wilton springform pan ($15). 


Blueberry Streusel Coffee Cake

Streusel topping
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk or low-fat plain yogurt
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly butter and flour a 9-inch spring-form pan.

To make the streusel topping: In a medium bowl or a food processor, combine butter, flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Cut butter in with a pastry blender or your fingers, or process, until the mixture forms coarse crumbs.

To make the cake: In a large bowl, combine the oil, sugars, eggs, and vanilla, and beat by hand until smooth. In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add dry ingredients to the creamed mixture, alternating with the buttermilk. Beat until smooth. Fold in the berries. Turn into the prepared pan and spread streusel topping evenly over the batter.

Bake 40–45 minutes, or until cake is golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack 10 minutes, then remove the pan sides and let cool completely.

Adapted from Coffee Cakes: Simple, Sweet, and Savory by Lou Seibert Pappas

Great Grandma’s Coffee Cake

August 25th, 2009

Great Grandma's coffee cake decoratedMy mom’s mom was well known for her signature coffee cake, and tonight Carter and I made her recipe. (We halved it because we had only a cup of sugar, which gave me a chance to talk about dividing and fractions.) Even Carter remarked at how easy and fast it is to make. I think that helped keep him engaged in the whole process, as did letting him do several things for the first time.

Carter did the usual—scooped the flour, cracked the eggs (oops! one overboard, it happens), poured the milk. The new technique he learned was how to mix dry ingredients with butter to form coarse crumbs. I had him try using my pastry blender (I love Oxo’s blender with blades) and then I had him try doing it with his fingers, which is a great tactile experience for kids. He liked both ways, and the variety helped keep his interest.

For some reason, Carter is newly entranced with wanting to use the spatula to scrape batter into a pan; he got so excited doing it that he called for Daddy to come watch. He also insisted on sprinkling the topping. Then he put his handprint in the middle. I told him I thought we wouldn’t be able to see it after coffee cake baked, but nothing like an experiment to find out. (Sure enough, telltale ridges remained of his mark.)

When I was checking the coffee cake for doneness, Carter really wanted to use the “needle” (aka a cake tester). I was reluctant because the pan was hot, but I also want him to learn to do these things safely. I put his hand in a long oven mitt that went up his arm and guided his hand, while explaining to check to see if any crumbs stick to it: another new concept. (I can’t recommend the cake tester I have because the metal part too easily separates from its wooden handle, but I do recommend having a cake tester on hand. One of these days, I’ll probably get a Oxo cake tester as a replacement.)

Of course, once the cake cooled, Carter made it his own by adding sprinkles. The candles are for Pink Bear, who celebrates her birthday on a regular basis.

Great Grandma’s Coffee Cake

4 cups flour
2 cups sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup butter (room temperature)
1 cup milk
3 eggs
4 teaspoons vanilla 

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Butter two round cake pans or one 9-by-13-inch baking pan.

Sift together the flour, sugar, and baking powder. Using a pastry blender or your fingers, combine dry ingredients with butter until coarse crumbs form. Reserve 1 cup of mixture for topping.

To remaining mixture,  add milk, eggs, and vanilla.  Mix by hand until well blended. Pour batter into prepared pan(s) and evenly sprinkle reserved mixture over the top.

Bake at 400ºF for 35 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown and a toothpick in the middle comes out clean.

Cornmeal apple cheese muffins

August 23rd, 2009

Carter wanted to go the airplane museum, a weekly request. I wanted to make cornmeal apple cheese muffins, a long-lost, pre-Carter recipe that turned up when I recently cleaned out my stack of recipe clippings. So first we baked, then Carter devoured a muffin on the way to the Hiller—and another two when we got home.

Carter favorite part about making this muffin recipe is that he got to turn a lot of handles: sifter, nutmeg grater, and rotary cheese grater. Equipment notes: I have a sifterwith a handle that you turn rather squeeze, which is easier for Carter (and me!) to use. I’ve mentioned before that we grind our own nutmeg, a personal preference that also gives Carter more involvement. After a few knuckle scrapes with a box cheese grater, I almost always use a rotary cheese grater, which Carter used today for the first time with very careful oversight.

I had only an old newspaper clipping with no attribution, but thanks to Google and Darlene’s Kitchen Pantry, I found out that this cornmeal apple cheese muffins recipe comes from the Apple Cookbook by Olwen Woodier. My yield using an ice cream scoop for a consistent measure was 15 small muffins. 

Cornmeal apple cheese muffins

1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 cup silk (skim, low-fat, soy, or rice)
1/4 cup apple juice or cider
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 medium apple (such as Braebrun, Empire, or Granny Smith), peeled, cored, and finely diced

Preheat over to 400ºF. Grease 12 large or 18 small muffin cups.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, apple juice, honey, oil, and eggs. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the liquids and the cheese. Stir by hand to barely combine the batter. Gently fold in the diced apples so the batter is lumpy, not smooth. Do not overmix.

Fill each muffin cup about two-thirds full. Bake 15–20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Remove from the muffin cups immediately and cool on a wire rack or serve hot.

Adapted from the Apple Cookbook

Black Russian Bundt cake

August 23rd, 2009

Just this week, two different people mentioned to me how they frequently make the recipe I gave them for Black Russian cake and how it’s always a hit. Since Carter and I didn’t have a chance to bake today, I thought I’d take this change to pass along this tried-and-true favorite, which is incredibly easy to make.

The back story: Shortly before we were married, so not quite nine years ago, Jeff came home one day and asked me if I could bake a Kahlua cake. Apparently, a woman had brought one to a work potluck. With some probing, I figured out that it was a Bundt cake. I told Jeff, “No, I can’t make one because I don’t have a Bundt pan.” (Of course, why the pan mattered completely puzzled him.)

Shortly afterward, I registered for and we received a Bundt cake pan for a wedding present, and the quest began. I researched recipes online and made a Kahlua cake. But Jeff said it didn’t taste right. Fortunately, at a happy hour Jeff’s coworkers had in honor of us getting married, I met the original baker, who set me straight. It wasn’t just a Kahlua cake, it was a Black Russian cake: vodka is the key ingredient. Not a lot and it can be cheap, but vodka is essential to the flavor. After more researching and experimenting, here’s the recipe that’s become one of my signature offerings.

Black Russian Bundt Cake

1 package plain devil’s food cake mix, without pudding
1 three-ounce package instant chocolate pudding mix
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup Kahlua
1/4 cup vodka
4 large eggs (room temperature)

1 cup sifted confectioners’ sugar
1/8-1/4 cup Kahlua

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Lightly grease and flour a 12-cup bundt pan. 

Combine cake mix, pudding mix, water, oil, Kahlua, vodka, and eggs in a large mixing bowl. Beat for three minutes with an electric mixer. Pour batter in the pan and bake for 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan, then remove and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

For glaze, add Kahlua to the confectioners sugar until honey-like consistency. Drizzle glaze over cooled cake.

sour cream–maple muffins

August 16th, 2009

Before dinner Friday night, I wanted to squeeze in some baking time. Carter suggested making something “fast” like brownies: “I’ll just get out the brown brownie flour [aka brownie mix], and I can follow the recipe. It’s easy, Mommy.” So much for instilling in my child any preference for from-scratch over from-the-box brownies! But we were out of brownie mix anyway. (Note to self: add to Costco list.)

Our next choice—peanut-butter blondies from Real Food for Healthy Kids—got nixed for lack of brown sugar. (Note to self: go to grocery store!)

I don’t want to give the impessione we “settled” for sour cream–maple muffins, even though we chose this Williams Sonoma recipe partly because we had all the ingredients. They’re much too good for that. The maple syrup adds a subtle flavor that’s agreeable with kids, but sophisticated enough for adults, and the muffins themselves are rich yet light. Taste for yourself, and let us know what you think.

One of the satisfying things about baking with kids, in addition to the actual process, is seeing their pride of ownerships in the end result. The muffins were just out of the pan cooling as we were trying to get dinner on the table. Carter took it upon himself  to “serve one to everyone,” proudly placing a muffin on each of our plates, his own contribution to our family meal.

Sour Cream–Maple Muffins
1 3/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup maple syrup
1 cup sour cream
1 egg

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Butter or coat standard-size muffin tins with cooking spray.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, beat the butter until smooth, then slowly add the maple syrup, beating constantly. Beat in the sour cream and egg. Add the combined dry ingredients and stir until just blended (do not overmix).

Spoon into the prepared muffin tins (makes 12–16 muffins) and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 15–18 minutes. Cool in tins for 5 minutes, then remove.

Adapted from  Muffins & Quick Breads (Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library) by John Phillip Carroll

neighborly take on banana bread

August 13th, 2009

You’re not supposed to eat before doing yoga. But when your neighbor brings you mini banana muffins with chocolate chips still warm from the oven, that’s a rule that’s meant to be broken. Right?

Well, last night, let’s just say I had three mini banana muffins before doing a YogaMazing podcast.

Carter devoured the last two mini banana muffins for breakfast (after he rejected my last attempt at banana muffins as “too chocolately”).

Speaking of rules, the funny thing is that Nandini breaks a bunch of baking ones, but still ends up with delicious results. For instance, because she likes to use just one bowl, she doesn’t bother to sift dry ingredients separately. For these muffins, she just creamed the butter and sugar, and then mixed in the rest of the ingredients.

Nandini’s Mini Banana Muffins
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 egg
1 cup mashed bananas
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat over to 350F degrees. Coat a 24-cup mini muffin pan with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, cream sugar and butter. Mix in the egg and the banana. Add the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt—can be sifted together first) and mix until just combined. Stir in milk. Fold in chocolate chips.

Spoon batter into mini muffin pan. Bake until tops brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, approximately 15 minutes. Deliver warm to neighbors.

Adapted from Banana Bread V from

Simplest strawberries Romanoff

August 11th, 2009

IMG_2918In my new book club, we all take turns making dessert. Laurel has made Real Simple’s raspberry oatmeal bars, which are so sweet you’ll want to have just a small slice (even though you’ll crave more). I have made (big surprise) my favorite brownies. Friday night, Bat-Ami and her son, Lucas, who’s almost 11, made a super simple version of strawberries Romanoff, a nice, light treat. Could it be any easier—or prettier? 

Simplest Strawberry Romanoff

Layer in parfait dishes or kid-friendly clear plastic cups:

Bottom pink layer: Puréed strawberries and whipped cream (to taste, roughly 1 part strawberry to 2 parts cream)

Middle red layer: Puréed strawberries

Top white layer: Whipped cream

Decorations: Sliced strawberries (mint is another option)

Note: An adult should handle the purée step—Bat-Ami used a stick blender, but a blender or food processor would also work. For kids, it’s all about scooping, dividing, and layering—all of which help develop hand-eye coordination, math skills, and spatial relations.