Archive for the ‘Recipes’ category

Banana chocolate chip oatmeal muffins

August 10th, 2009

I was suffering from baking withdrawal, and two black bananas in the fridge have been staring at me. So before dashing off to a much-delayed Target run this evening, Carter and I made this recipe from a San Jose Mercury Home Plates column on “healthier” banana muffins that kids will eat. Not a hard-to-guess secret: The recipes feature chocolate chips—which also happens to be key to getting me to eat something. 

At first, Carter was going to “just watch” me bake, which is a new thing, but he never stays on the sidelines long. In addition to adding and mixing ingredients, today he measured the baking powder for the first time. Tip: The physics of the baking-powder container made it easier for him to scoop and level (using the peeled back foil in the container) five times using a 1/2 teaspoon, than to try to fill up a whole teaspoon. (Another day, I’ll sing the praises of baking’s built-in math lessons.) For the first couple of scoops, I stood behind him and guided his hands. Then I got the: “I can do it myself, Mommy.” And he could. Letting him spray the muffin tin with cooking spray wasn’t quite as tidy, but he had fun. 

Carter didn’t have time to try a muffin before bedtime. I took some down the street to our neighbors. Carter’s friends Paul and Sonia, who are also 4 but have a later bedtime, were making up my favorite brownie recipe with their mom. Considering that they each child polished off a muffin while I was there, I’d say this recipe gets the kids’ seal of approval. 


Banana chocolate-chip oatmeal muffins

1 3/4 all-purpose flour
3/4 oats, old-fashioned or quick-cooking
2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 salt
1 cup mashed overripe bananas (about two medium)
1/2 cup milk
1 large egg
2 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil, preferably canola
2/3 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 425F degrees. Coat 12 muffin cups with nonstick cooking spray. In a large bowl, stir flour, oats, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt until well-mixed. In a small bowl, whisk banana, milk, egg, and oil until blended. Add all at once to flour mixture and stir just until moistened. Do not overmix! Fold in chocolate chips. Divide among muffin cups.

Bake 18 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center of a muffin comes out clean. Leave in pan five minutes, then cool on a wire rack. If a muffin sticks in pan, run a small knife (or thin spatula if using a nonstick muffin pan) around it and gently lift out.


Based on a recipe contributed by Tereasa Simpson to the June 4, 2009, San Jose Mercury News Home Plates column. The original recipe also contains 1/8 teaspoon of baking powder, 1/2 cup chopped nuts, and 1/4 cup miniature chocolate chips.

Quick chicken recipe (really)

August 5th, 2009

Before we had Carter, I’m hard pressed to think of a time my husband and I actually planned a meal together. Post-child, that changed, and family dinner is an important part of our evening routine. I’m generally the one who gets the food on the table, and it’s hard after 10 hours of commuting and working. Jeff kindly calls me the “master chef,” mostly because I know more about cooking than he does. Truth be told, though, I’m not much of a cook. That’s why I’m thrilled to find a true quick-and-easy dish. (Are you, too, dismayed at what’s billed as “quick and easy” that’s neither?)

Tonight’s success is ironically inspired by a recipe in Beth Hensperger’s book Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Recipes for Two. Here’s my take on her Salsa Chicken with Cheese, which will take longer for me to write than it did to make!

Quick Chicken with Salsa and Cheese

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Olive oil
1/2 cup premade salsa (such as Newman’s Own Chunky Mild Salsa)
1/2 lime
2 slices Provolone cheese

Preheat overproof skillet over medium heat. Trim access fat from the chicken with a kitchen shears and place between two pieces of wax paper. Pound with the flat side of a meat tenderizer until the chicken is a consistent height, around 1/4 inch. Brush both sides with olive oil. Place chicken in skillet and cook until lightly browned, about 3 minutes; turn and cook the other side until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Spoon salsa evenly over the top of the chicken. Squeeze lime juice onto salsa. Top each breast with a slice of cheese. Move skillet to oven and broil until cheese is melted and bubbly, about 2 minutes. Serve, pouring any juices from the pan over the top.

Kids’ cooking: Carter helped pound out the chicken—holding the meat tenderizer in both hands to prevent any errant blows on little fingers.

Side note: I showed Carter (and Jeff) how to snap off the end of an asparagus spear, so the woody part naturally breaks off, which is fun to do. (It didn’t inspire either of them to like asparagus—nor did the grated lemon zest and fresh squeezed lemon juice. Oh well, they both liked the chicken!)

Instant cinnamon rolls

July 26th, 2009

cinnamon rolls I’ve made “simple” (non-yeast) cinnamon rolls, but it was still a lot of work. As an experiment today, Carter and I rolled out Trader Joe’s whole-wheat pizza dough, brushed with butter, sprinkled with cinnamon-sugar, rolled up, sliced into 12 pieces, and baked for 15 minutes at 425F. Pretty close to instant. Here are the sticky details.

Instant Cinnamon Rolls

Flour, for rolling out the dough
1 package pizza dough
3 tablespoons butter, not quite melted
4 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Preheat oven to 425F. Generously butter round baking pan.

To prevent dough from sticking, sprinkle flour on a large sheet of wax paper, and flour hands and rolling pin. Roll out dough into thin layer in the shape of rectangle. Brush top generously with melted butter. Combine cinnamon and sugar in the jar with a sprinkle top. Generously sprinkle cinnamon-sugar mixture over butter. Roll up dough from a long side. Using serrated knife, slice through layers to make 12 pieces and evenly space in baking pan. Bake 15 minutes or until dough is browned and firm to touch. Let cool and sprinkle with leftover cinnamon-sugar mixture.

painting butter

When I asked Carter his favorite part of making cinnamon rolls, I expected him to say the rolling or the sprinking, which he did with gusto. His answer was painting the butter, so I have to mention yet another Oxo gadget I love the  silicone pastry brush. (I promise I’m not a company shill.)

Later: Unprompted snack request: “More cinnamon rolls, please.”

Banana bread

July 25th, 2009

red whiskFinally dealing with the black bananas in the fridge. Carter wasn’t interested until I got out the red whisk. (Red is his absolute favorite color in the whole wide world.) Then he really got into it.

This recipe is a healthy take on a childhood classic from Real Food for Healthy Kids. It’s rare that I find a cookbook from which I make more than one recipe, a true hallmark of success in the cookbook world (we cookbook readers aspire more than we execute). Written by two working moms, Tracey Seaman and Tanya Wenman Steel, Real Food for Healthy Kids is one of those books. 

Ba-Ba Banana Bread

From Real Food for Healthy Kids

2 cups whole-wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
4 very ripe medium bananas, coarsely mashed with a fork
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup chocolate chips (in lieu of 2/3 cup chopped walnuts)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 9-by5-inch loaf pan.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium bowl and reserve.

Beat the eggs and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the bananas, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla and mix at low speed until blended.

Add the flour mixture and mix at low speed just until blended. Stir in the chocolate chips or nuts and the scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for about 1 hour, until a cake tested inserted into the center comes out clean.

Let the bread cool for 15 minutes in the pan on a rack, then turn out and let cool before cutting.

Digg these muffins

July 22nd, 2009

I liked this muffin recipe so much, it inspired me to write my first Digg contribution:
Chef/dad helps parents cook easy healthy food for their kids Do toddlers and zucchini mix? Yes, says Seattle chef and dad Greg Johnson who teaches parents how to prepare easy homemade food for babies and toddlers. His muffin recipe caught my eye because of its unusual ingredient combination: zucchini, olive oil, goji berries, apple sauce, etc. Result: cake-like muffins that don’t taste “healthy” but are.

Note: I put in about 5 tablespoons of goji berries to make up for having only 1/3 cup of raisins. Costco carries goji berries: key ingredient, not to be skipped!

Finnley’s Super Muffins

From Relish Magazine, courtesy of Greg Johnson

2 tablespoons goji berries
1/3 cup warm water
4 eggs
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons agave nectar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups grated zucchini
1 cup raisins

1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Soak goji berries in warm water 3 minutes.
3. Combine eggs, oil, applesauce, sugar, agave nectar and vanilla extract in a bowl; whisk together. Whisk in goji berries and soaking water.
4. Add flour, baking soda and cinnamon. Mix well. Fold in zucchini and raisins just until mixed. Batter will be very heavy.
5. Coat cups of muffin tins with cooking spray. Spoon batter into cups, filling each one-half to three-fourths full. Bake 18 to 20 minutes, until semi-firm to the touch. Makes 18 muffins.

Nutritional Information
Per serving: 200 calories, 7g fat, 45mg chol., 4g prot., 31g carbs., 160mg sodium.

Cookie phobia

July 5th, 2009

Elyse suggested making star cookies with Carter for the Fourth of July. We just did it a day late and combined it with a photo shoot for Baking with Carter. Guess which Carter liked better?

I took advantage of having Cousin Elyse here to get a blog photo, which isn’t an easy feat with a four-year-old. But she did it.

I confess, for all the baking I do, it’s highly unusual for me to make cookies. The reluctance dates back decades to less-than-successful tries as a child. (Yes, my mom let us loose in the kitchen at a young age.) There were the ginger snaps ran, the Tollhouse attempts burned, and the stiff dough was just too hard to mix by hand. Besides, ginger snaps were my great Aunt Frances’s specialty, and chocolate-chip cookies were my sister Margaret’s.

Fast forward to today. I realize how silly my fear of cookies has been—now that I have a KitchenAid stand mixer (wedding present from some dear siblings). It does all the hard work! Combine it with an Alton Brown recipe, a star cookie cutter from the PlayDoh set, and red sprinkles. We were so set.

Sugar Cookies
Recipe by Alton Brown
Show: Good EatsEpisode: The Cookie Clause

3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon milk
Powdered sugar, for rolling out dough

Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Place butter and sugar in large bowl of electric stand mixer and beat until light in color. Add egg and milk and beat to combine. Put mixer on low speed, gradually add flour, and beat until mixture pulls away from the side of the bowl. Divide the dough in half, wrap in waxed paper, and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375F degrees.

Sprinkle surface where you will roll out dough with powdered sugar. Remove 1 wrapped pack of dough from refrigerator at a time, sprinkle rolling pin with powdered sugar, and roll out dough to 1/4-inch thick. Move the dough around and check underneath frequently to make sure it is not sticking. If dough has warmed during rolling, place cold cookie sheet on top for 10 minutes to chill. Cut into desired shape, place at least 1-inch apart on greased baking sheet, parchment, or silicone baking mat, and bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until cookies are just beginning to turn brown around the edges, rotating cookie sheet halfway through baking time. Let sit on baking sheet for 2 minutes after removal from oven and then move to complete cooling on wire rack. Serve as is or ice as desired. Store in airtight container for up to 1 week.

Friends and Fourth of July

July 4th, 2009

We don’t entertain much, partly because my husband exemplifies a true introvert. That’s why I’m happy to be friends with a couple like Chris and Jo. Carter adores them, especially Auntie Jo, best known for singing “Humpty Dumpty”; Jeff kicks back when they come over, and—bonus points—they’re good cooks and wine connoisseurs. (They belong to Burrell School’s wine club and brought the 2005 Valedictorian. I liked it, and I almost never like red wine.) Perfect companions for a low-key Fourth of July BBQ.

I tried out a new recipe inspired by an pick for best summer salad.

Mint Feta and Watermelon Salad

1 small seedless watermelon, scooped with a melon baller and drained in a colander for at least a half hour
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
4 teaspoons olive oil
8 oz. crumbled Feta Cheese
1 medium bunch of mint, minced

Drain watermelon in colander for at least a half hour (crucial step). Discard juices. Mix the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and lemon juice in a small jar and shake. Put the watermelon, feta, and mint in a medium bowl. Dress and toss to mix. Chill or serve immediately. Best the same day.

Jo topped it with the slaw from Nigella’s Vietnamese Chicken and Mint Salad. Skip the chicken and use half purple, half white cabbage. It’s all about the flavor in the dressing.

Carter’s host moment: “I want to offer Auntie Jo a frozen yogurt pop,” as a quiet aside in the kitchen. Quite an honor for her (and a healthy dessert!).

Butter tart for Daddy

June 21st, 2009

Happy Fathers’ Day!

Years back, Jeff heard a song that talked about butter tarts, a traditional Canadian dessert, and asked me to make one. My early efforts using a recipe with maple syrup were overly runny. Along the way, at Jeff’s request, I swapped out the raisins for dried cranberries and started using Macadamias nuts. The combination is outrageously rich. Since Jeff complains that I rarely make butter tarts, I decided to treat him for Dads’ Day (because he is an amazing dad, a real natural).

Butter tarts are traditionally made as individual tarts, but I just use a premade piecrust. (Yes, it’s embarrassing, but I’ve never made a piecrust on my own.) I found a recipe on All Recipes that opts for brown sugar over the most commonly used corn syrup, which I just can’t fathom buying these days. Here’s my adapted version. The verdict: Not runny. “Different,” said Jeff. Based on the daily slice he had until it was gone, I’d say a success.

Jeff’s Butter Tart
1 (9-inch) unbaked piecrust
1 egg
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/3 cup dried cranberries
2/3 cup unsalted Macadamia nuts

Preheat oven to 400F degrees.

In a large bowl, beat egg with an electric mixer at medium speed, then beat in brown sugar. Add the vinegar and vanilla extract and mix well at low speed. Then add melted butter. Mix at low speed until combined.

Sprinkle cranberries and nuts evenly over piecrust. Carefully pour butter mixture into the piecrust over the cranberries and nuts.

Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350F degrees and bake an additional 25 to 30 minutes, until set.

Carter’s Take: Not in the mood to bake, he just watched me make it and left the eating to Daddy.

Linzer cupcakes

June 20th, 2009

linzer cupcakes
Back from vacation and back to our weekend baking routine. Today, Carter insisted that we make cupcakes for Bunny’s birthday. (Select stuffed animals, among them a blue bunny that plays Braham’s Lullaby, live quite the life.)

With my major recipe reorganization earlier this month, I unearthed a Real Simple article from three years ago that showed how to decorate cupcakes Linzer style. I always cut out and save these kinds of articles because I will and did forget this easy idea.

Just like with Linzer torte cookies, you simply sandwich jam between two layers, with a shape cut out of the top one. Doing the same with cupcakes is a super-simple thing to do with kids because after you (adult) cut off the tops in the first step, kids can pretty much take it from there.

(1) Using a serrated knife, slice the top of each cupcake and stamp out a shape, such as a heart, with a cookie cutter. (2) Sprinkle the tops with powdered sugar. (3) Spread jam on top the lower portions of the cupcakes. Reassemble the cupcakes with the jam in the center now peeking through.

Cut out shape with cookie cutterSprinkle top with powdered sugar.

Spread jam on bottom and return top.

Carter’s Take: They’re yummy. I like the cupcake sandwich.

cupcake warm-up

June 20th, 2009

For the cupcakes we decorated Linzer style, we adapted the coconut cupcake recipe from the cookbook Williams Sonoma Kids Baking. This gives me a chance to comment that having ingredients at room temperature does make a difference for the better when you’re baking any kind of a cake.

A couple of shortcuts for those of us who don’t plan our baking that far in advance: If the butter is cold, microwave it at half power in short intervals (10–15 seconds). Monitor by touch (you’re want soft but not too squishy)—don’t let it melt! It took about a minute in our microwave. If your eggs are cold, put them in a bowl of hot (just from the tap, not boiling!) water for a few minutes.

Basic Butter Cupcakes

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup plain yogurt (we used Trader Joe’s full-fat Greek yogurt, which I bought by mistake, instead of fat-free)

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a 12-muffin pan with paper liners.

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

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together the butter, sugar, and vanilla on medium speed until creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each one is added. Add half of the flour mixture and beat on low speed just until blended. Add the yogurt and beat until smooth. Add the rest of the flour mixture and beat just until blended. The batter will be fairly stiff. Using an ice cream scoop or 2 large spoons, one to scoop and one to push, fill each lined cup mostly full with batter.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and set on a cooling rack for 20 minutes. Tip the cupcakes out of the pan onto the rack and let cool completely.

Go crazy with jam, Linzer style!