Tag Archives: Baking

Orange Spice Banana Bread

Orange spice banana bread.  It’s like regular banana bread, but sexier.  The kind of sexy that wears an old wool sweater and glasses.  The nerdy kind.

Despite all this, it’s also delicious.

My internet is also still quite unreliable, so this’ll be a short one.

Orange Spice Banana Bread

  • 2 ridiculously ripe bananas
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 T canola oil
  • 1/2 C plain or vanilla fat-free yogurt (keep in mind that vanilla yogurt will be sweeter, and adjust accordingly!  I used vanilla.)
  • 1/4 C skim milk
  • 1/2 C brown sugar
  • 1 T orange zest
  • 1 t orange extract (optional)
  • 3 T ground flaxseed
  • 1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 C almond flour (or use two cups total all-purpose flour)
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1 t each cinnamon and nutmeg

Like most quick breads, this recipe couldn’t be easier.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, mix the wet ingredients, add the dry, and pour into a greased/parchment papered loaf pan.

Here, I decided to top the loaf with whole walnuts.  That’s up to you, though I must say it made a really nice crunchy top crust.

Bake on the middle rack until an inserted skewer comes out with a few crumbs clinging to it, about an hour.

Yum!  I’m by no means an expert at creating breads, but this one came out perfectly–dense and moist like any banana bread, but still light enough to eat two slices at once (or three, if you are Fritz).

The orange flavor is pretty subtle, and you could ramp it up a bit with more orange zest (or sub OJ for the skim milk?  More sugar there, though).

Perfect with a pat o’ butter, and I know exactly what my breakfast will consist of early tomorrow morning.

 

Actually, I’m not really sure.  Steel-cut oats have been calling my name for a couple of days, too.  But if I have those for breakfast, than a slice of this bread will definitely be a part of second breakfast (movie/book, anyone?). 

Tomorrow morning Fritz and I are heading to go to one of my top fall destinations, Westchester County (in NY), to go apple picking/pumpkin picking/hay riding/hot apple cider drinking/apple cider donut eating with some friends–and I can’t wait!  I’m confident I will return with at least a thousand photos (just kidding! Maybe…), and that the 67 degree weather tomorrow calls for boots.

Hallelujah.

Henry’s plans for tomorrow largly consist of this:

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Filed under Breads

Comfort Food: Apple Crisp Edition

Apple crisp isn’t going to change your life.  I can promise you that.

But what it might do is make you feel like everything is all right with your world; that your insides are warm and fuzzy and nothing bad can happen.  And that nothing makes you feel better than ice cream melting into cinnamon and nutmeg with warm apples and crunchy-buttery oats and nuts.

Apple crisp is a comfort food, my friends.  At least in my house it is.  My mom always makes at least one apple crisp every fall, and when I was a freshman at college she drove six hours to visit with a pan of still-warm apple crisp to help me move in the right way.

And that is comforting.

Apple Crisp (makes enough to serve a large crowd, or have lots of leftovers to be warmed up later)

for the filling:

  • 10-12 mixed varieties of apples (Empire, Pink Lady, Granny Smith, Braeburn…), peeled, cored, and cut into small pieces
  • 1/4 C sugar
  • 2 T lemon or lime juice
  • 1 t cinnamon

for the topping:

  • 1 C whole-wheat flour (I was out, so I used all-purpose)
  • 3/4 C almond meal
  • 1 C brown sugar
  • 1 C whole walnuts
  • 1 C old-fashioned oats
  • 1/2 C butter (1 stick, chilled)
  • 2 T maple syrup
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • freshly grated nutmeg (about 1/2 t)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  The first big step is to peel, core, and chop the apples–and this step is much easier when you have one of those nifty apple corer and slicer things.  I do, thank goodness.  Mix in the sugar, spices, and lemon or lime.  Pour the apple mixture into a large dish–mine is 10′ x 15′.  The apples should come right up to the top (but don’t worry, they’ll cook down later).  Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the ingredients for the topping.  Cut the butter (it’s better if it is a bit chilled) into small pieces into the bowl.  Use your hands for the easiest mixing, blending the flours into the butter until it is the texture of sandy pebbles…if that makes any sense. 

Crumble the mixture over the top of the apples, and dust with freshly grated nutmeg.  Bake on the middle rack until the apples are soft and bubbly and the top is golden brown, about an hour.

Please, please, oh please, serve with ice cream.  Warm.

And when you reheat this, do it in the oven and not the microwave.  Your mother will thank you.  And so will your belly.

One of the best parts of this is the big walnuts–and that’s coming from someone who’s not a big fan of nuts inside desserts.

And if you’ve had a hard day at school, or a long day at work, or a fight with your hubs, or you are feeling down for any reason, really…this is your dessert.

Enjoy!

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Sunrise Muffins

I’ve wanted to make these muffins ever since I bought Allison Fishman’s You Can Trust a Skinny Cook–mostly because the recipe involves putting an entire orange (peel, pith, and all) right into the blender.

That just appeals to the green monster-making side of me–and I’m so used to using and washing the blender every day that I don’t mind breaking it out again.  Combine that with the chilly, rainy weather that woke me up this morning, and sunrise muffins became a necessity.

Sunrise Muffins (makes a dozen muffins)

  • 1 orange (I actually used a tangelo), sliced into eighths
  • 1/2 C orange juice
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 C vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 C all-purpose flour (I used whole-wheat pastry flour, with excellent results)
  • 3/4 C sugar
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/2 dried fruit (I used a dried berry mix–cherries, blueberries, cranberries, and strawberries)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, and line muffin tins with papers.

The fun part: in the blender, combine the eggs, oil, orange juice, and sliced orange sections, and blend until smooth.  While blending, mix the remaining ingredients except the dried fruit in a medium bowl, and create a well for the orange mixture.  Pour it in, mix until a smooth batter forms, and fold in the dried fruit.

You may regret tasting the batter at this point because it is so gosh-darn, finger-licking, re-taste, save-a-little-extra-in-the-bowl-who-cares-if-the-muffins-are-tiny good.  Anyway, divide the (remaining) batter evenly into the 12 muffin tins.  Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 20-25 minutes, until the tops are golden brown.  Cool on a rack.

I love how golden these are, thanks to the orange–they really do look like a sunrise.

And the taste.  Wow.  I wasn’t expecting anything magical from these muffins, but these really served to remind me that basic can be best!  They are sweet and tangy but also have the perfect amount of salt.

A teaspoon of salt can do so much for a basic muffin.  I ate one muffin.  I want to eat many more muffins.  Morning can’t come soon enough.

Oh, and for those who are interested, these muffins are only 175 calories each!

In case these muffins aren’t enough to brighten your day, here’s some of my absolute favorite new photos from an apple-picking session I went on with my mom and younger sister Kristen a few weeks ago:

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Filed under Breakfast

A Bun In The Oven (and a Recipe for Sandwich Buns)

I’m so excited to finally share this news with you–someone’s got a bun in the oven, and I’ll let you guess who it is!

What?! No, not me!  Fritz and I are still students, living on loans and a tight budget.  Let’s get serious, please!

Yes–it’s my beautiful, wise, and soon mommy-to-be big sister, Erin:

Isn’t that just the cutest baby belly you have ever seen?  That was taken two weeks ago, and now Erin is at 13 weeks and says her belly is growing more every day.  Meet Sprout (otherwise known as Dub):

I know.  I can’t believe that I’m going to be a first-time aunt–and with great power comes great responsibility (…what?).  Henry has been carefully stockpiling his favorite toys under the oven to share when his little cousin comes around for the first time, Fritz has a pile of baby toothbrushes and dental instructions ready to go (especially since Sprout is already developing his teeth!), and I have been busily scheming ways to steal the favorite auntie crown from my other sisters via baked goods and sweet treats (back off, ladies!).

So to show solidarity between my big sis and I, I decide to bake some buns in my own oven.  The kind of buns that don’t need to be carried around for 40 weeks or fed and clothed once they’re finished baking.

The Best Sandwich Buns (from Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads)

  • 5 C all-purpose flour
  • 2 pkgs dry yeast (that’s 4 1/2 t, you guys)
  • 1 T salt (I used a teensy bit less)
  • 2 T butter, room temperature
  • 2 C hot water
  • Milk to brush on top
  • sesame seeds or poppy seeds (or both!) to garnish

As a side note–Erin used to have bread baking fits when we were in high school, and would make approximately 20 loaves of the best white bread ever in a few hours that the family would frantically consume before nightfall.  So the smell of any yeasted bread rising always makes me think of her.  That lucky Sprout, man.

In the bowl of your mixer, add 2 C flour, the salt, and the yeast, and briefly mix to combine.  While mixing with the flat beater, add the butter and hot water, continuing to mix until a smooth batter forms.  Add the remaining flour 1/2 C at a time until the dough forms a shaggy mass–it’s okay if you don’t use all five cups, I ended at 4 1/2.

Switch to the dough hook and knead the dough for 8 minutes, sprinkling in a little flour if necessary to keep the dough from sticking to the sides (it should form a ball around the dough hook, but still be soft and a little sticky to the touch).  Lightly grease a bowl, then place the dough in it, cover tightly with Saran wrap, and move to a warm place to rise until doubled in size (this is quick–about a half an hour).

I always put rising dough in our bedroom closet.  It’s so hot in there!  Is that weird?

Once the dough is ready, place it on a floured surface and divide into 12 parts (this recipe makes a dozen large buns).  Shape each one into a ball, then cover in wax paper to rest for a few minutes.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper in the meantime.  Once they’ve sufficiently rested, flatten them into circles about four inches in diameter and lay them on the parchment paper.

Cover them with wax paper and allow them to rise for another 30-35 minutes, until they are soft and puffy-looking.  Preheat the oven 20 minutes before baking to 400 degrees.  Right before the buns go in, brush the tops with milk and sprinkle them with sesame or poppy seeds (or both!).

Bake for 15-20 minutes until the tops are a light golden brown.  If you aren’t sure if they are done (the tops will still look pretty light), flip them over and check to see if the bottoms are browned.  If they are, take ’em out and let them cool on a rack.

These really are the perfect sandwich buns–and I know, because Fritz is super picky about having the ideal ratio of bread to sandwich innards, and he ate two different sandwiches for dinner, very enthusiastically.

The buns have a satisfying crunch on the outside but are so soft and fluffy on the inside.  They taste of yeast, salt, and seeds but don’t distract from the sandwich.  And that is the mark of a prime sandwich bun.

Plus, Bernard Clayton says that you can freeze these babies for up to a year!  So if you have a picky sandwich bread eater (ahem, Fritz!), it might be worth your while to make a double batch and put them away for special occasions.

And if you have the other kind of bun in the oven, I’m really super excited for you…but it’s not going to be as cute as my future niece or nephew.  Sorry, but genetics are a powerful thing!

Oh, and speaking of additions to the family, Fritz and I picked up a coffee table on sale (thank you Labor Day!) at the thrift store for $12!

That’s the only kind of addition we’ll be adding to our family anytime soon (the fluffy orange cat has been put on hold for the time being).  Nieces and nephews are always welcome, though!

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Lavender Salt & Sugar

This post is so quick and easy I can hardly call it a recipe.

But pretty? Yes.  Delicious?  Oh, yeah.

Welcome, lavender salt and lavender sugar.  I’ve seen you around the blog universe, and I think even Martha Stewart would appreciate your gift-worthiness.  Plus, lavender grown in my very own herb garden made you extra easy to make–and real cheap.

Lavender Salt or Sugar

  • 1/2 C sugar (white or brown) or coarse sea salt
  • 3 t dried lavender buds (make sure they are approved for eating!)

I gave the lavender buds a quick whirl in my coffee grinder to break them up a bit and release some of those fragrant (not to mention delicious) oils.  I kept them mostly whole, so they were recognizable as lavender buds, though.

Either layer or combine the salt or sugar with the lavender in a glass container (or hey, you could go plastic if you want) with a lid. 

Well, that’s it.  You’re done.

I did a small one with brown sugar (probably only a quarter of a cup of sugar, if that) for sprinkling on top of oatmeal or baked goods.

I also did a bigger one with coarse sea salt–which would also be amazing on top of baked goodies (lavender salted chocolate fudge, anyone?), or fish, or pork.

Lastly, I made a fairly large container of plain white sugar–I figured I could add small amounts to things that I am baking for some extra flavor.  Or imagine rolling snickerdoodles in lavender sugar?  Gosh.

So many possibilities.

And of course, this makes a cheap and easy gift, especially if you tie a sweet label with some ribbon or string.

Christmas is coming up, ya know! 

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Filed under Spice Mixes

Seeded Crackers

What a relief to finally be home!  We began our travels yesterday at 8:00 in the morning and finally arrived home to Long Island at almost 9:00 at night.  Super long day.

Needless to say, we were super exhausted when we finally made it home–but very, very excited to see this face:

He’s been cling-wrapped to us all day and I think he’s finally starting to get that when we leave, we won’t be gone for another two weeks.  Oh–except that I’m catching a flight tomorrow night for Syracuse to see my side of the family (but Fritz is staying here, since his classes are starting tomorrow).

So, it was nice to have a bit of a normal routine today, including weekend baking.  I decided to attempt making crackers for the first time ever today, using this recipe from It’s Not About the Recipe for inspiration.

Seeded Crackers Printable Recipe Card

  •  1 C whole-wheat flour
  • 1 C rye flour
  • 1/4 C poppy seeds
  • 1/4 C sesame seeds
  • 1/4 C sunflower seeds
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 1/2 t baking powder
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 3/4 C water

This was a super easy recipe.  In the mixer, combine all the dry ingredients.  Mix in the olive oil, then the water, until a dough forms.  Let it rest for 15 minutes.

After resting, break the dough into four pieces (the original recipe said eight–not sure why, since it was not necessary and a bit more time-consuming).  Roll out the dough until very thin, using extra flour to prevent sticking (I stopped rolling only when I had to–when the thickness of the sunflower seeds prevented me from rolling it out any thinner).  Using a pizza cutter (or a pastry roller if you are lucky enough to have one), cut off the rough edges and slice the crackers into squares.  Place them close together on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, and stick ’em with a fork a couple of times for those cute cracker dots.

Bake in a hot oven (450 degrees) for 7-10 minutes until light golden brown.  You gotta watch these guys carefully, since they’ll burn fast and the only thing worse than the smell of burnt sesame seeds is the taste of burnt sesame seeds.

Let them cool completely and store in an air-tight container for about a week.

I wasn’t a huge fan of these crackers at first, but I posted the recipe anyway because I think that it’s a personal preference–I’m just not a huge fan of toasted sesame seeds.

Fritz enjoyed the crackers just fine.

Oh, and when I tried them the way I used to eat Ritz crackers in my youth (with strawberry jam), I was totally won over.

Yum.

Double, triple, crunchy seedy cracker yum.  These guys might just be those crackers that really work best with toppings.

My next cracker attempt (because these were so fast that I will definitely be making more crackers soon) may have to be sweet.  Or cheddar.  Or herby.  Either way, we need more crackers.

Back at the homefront, Henry has been peering out from behind our television (the one place he’s not supposed to go and is therefore his favorite place), daring us to have the gall to yell at him after we abandoned him for two weeks.

World’s worst cat.

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Hot Chocolate Cookies

This may sound like a weird thing to post in the middle of summer, but it was freezin’ cold yesterday!  It required sweaters, multiple pairs of pants, socks, and blankets in order to sit outside and read my Kindle by morning light.

So you can imagine how happy I was, since I’ve been fiending for fall since April hit.

I know, I’m a crazy person.  But Fritz made the whole family some hot chocolate, and I was inspired.  I needed hot chocolate in cookie form.  Immediately.

I searched the web for a few recipes, but didn’t find any that I really liked so experiment, I did.  I also had limited ingredients on hand (we are on vacation, after all), so I was pleasantly surprised when this recipe turned out just loverly.

Hot Chocolate Cookies (makes a dozen cookies) Printable Recipe Card

  • 1/2 C sugar
  • 1/3 C butter
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1/8 C milk
  • 1/2 C whole-wheat flour
  • 1/2 C old-fashioned oats
  • 1 t baking soda
  • sprinkle of salt (probably around 1/8 t)
  • 1/2 C hot cocoa mix (not unsweetened cocoa powder)
  • 1/2 C choc0late chips (optional–use as a glaze or in the cookies if you want!)
  • 6 large marshmellows, cut in half vertically

This recipe is fairly simple.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then add the milk and egg.  Beat until blended, and sprinkle in the remaining ingredients, except the marshmallows (and chocolate chips if using for a glaze).  Mix until just blended.

Drop large spoonfuls onto a lightly greased baking sheet (I used two, since the cookies spread out and puffed up quite nicely!).  Bake for 6-8 minutes on the middle rack until they just begin to set. 

Remove the baking sheets from the oven and press a marshmallow half, cut side down, into each cookie.  Place the cookie sheets on a higher rack and turn on the broiler.  Watch carefully and remove the cookies after the marshmallows puff and turn a beautiful golden brown (about a minute).

If you used the chocolate chips in the cookies, then you are done.  Otherwise, carefully melt the chips in the microwave at low power for a few seconds at a time, then drizzle the melted chocolate over the top.

Enjoy with a cold glass of milk or a steaming mug of hot chocolate.

Fritz and his dad later heated some cookies up in the microwave to be topped with ice cream, and declared that a true success.

What I like about these cookies is that they are not too sweet–even with the marshmallow and chocolate chips.  You’ll still probably want to eat only one, maybe two, but you won’t be overwhelmed with a sickly sweetness of bad hot chocolate mix–I promise. 

I also like the slight chewiness from the oats.  But you guys know how I feel about oats in any form (very, very good, in case you actually don’t know).

And here’s part of the gorgeous sunset from last night!  Isn’t it beautiful? 

Today the weather is back up in the 80’s and I am subsequently enjoying a nice left-sided pink sunburn from when I fell asleep at the lake after our run this morning (2.5 miles–but not all continuously).  Have a peaceful day!

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Filed under Desserts