banana fana fo fana

These came about by beautiful accident. I have been waiting and waiting for an excuse to make brown sugar buttercream. And not because I sneak the occasional spoonful of brown sugar for a pick me up (yeah, the big spoon)… But being that it’s not the crunchy leaf, cool breeze time of year when sweet potatoes, pumpkins, and pretty much anything served with a dash of spice finds its way onto our tables (and into our hearts bellies), I kept deciding and re-deciding what it was that would be more sweat-out-of-your-clothes season appropriate. So that left me with apple or banana. And I ran across so many maple icing recipes out there on the world wide web that I couldn’t make apple cupcakes with anything else.  So banana it was! And then I set out to figure out some way to make  sure they weren’t banana muffins or banana bread. This is more of a vanilla bean cupcake which happens to have lumps of banana in it for one reason or another, topped with my crossbred version of brown sugar icing which happens to have cream cheese in it for one reason or another, topped with toasted coconut curls for one reason or another (>cough< it’s pretty and white and makes my house smell good). And after all this, the recipe was a hit. My toughest critics ooh-ed and ahh-ed and “wow! Can I get the recipe”-ed me. But for me the best part is it qualifies as breakfast. Bananas. It’s fruit ; )

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all sweet whole wheat

There’s nothing I love more than a simple recipe. There’s something charming about allowing the flavors to speak for themselves. Flour, cream, raspberries, a touch of sugar. These have a little extra—ricotta cheese, that makes them so moist they can barely still be considered scones. They make a great morning treat, mid-morning snack, afternoon pick-me-up, waiting for dinner tide-me-over…oops, I think I may have just recounted my meals for the day. Whatever it is you are eating, it’s summertime. The best time to enjoy berries anyway you can–in drinks, fresh picked, sugar dipped, chocolate covered, whole, smashed, and sliced. And just maybe folded in dough and sprinkled in sugar can be one of them.

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quite a pear

Gorgonzola and pear. A pairing I met and fell and love with about a year ago out at dinner with my husband in this fancy new tapas restaurant in town. With tapas, you get a lot of little portions of different kinds of foods. The problem is that once I had the pear stuffed pasta with gorgonzola sauce, I wanted more. Now, I am not going to spend my time making my own pasta and stuffing them delicately with pear—oh, maybe one day in a dream—but today I set out to find a way to enjoy these lovely flavors at home.  For those of you who, like me, don’t find any shame in a short cut (maybe even revel in the cleverness of a bit of saved labor and time) this recipe is for you. Throw it in the food processor, melt it together on the stovetop, and pour it over some frozen (I know, I said it!) cheese tortellini and voila!

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this is it…

Pancit! It’s the answer you’ve been looking for. In those desperate moments of last minute dinner plans, here is a recipe that I come back to time after time. It is so good. Like, really good. Like, make little noises of happiness while you eat it good. I don’t know how it happens—the ingredient list is straightforward, but something happens in that pan that is unparalleled. And it’s a good thing it’s delicious because it makes enough food to feed my husband to get through most of a week. Don’t worry about following the amounts too closely, I just grab the ingredients needed and play it by ear eye. And those ingredients are cheap. What more could you ask for in a recipe? Oh yeah, did I mention it’s delicious?

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oh so cocoa

Nothing like a special occasion to indulge in a little chocolate goodness. Yes— anniversaries, birthdays, mondays…really I think it’s an anything goes kind of situation. I made these for a baby shower with the one request being chocolate. And what a pregnant woman wants everyone else wants, too a pregnant woman gets. I saw a picture of these and put them on my mental ‘make these whenever the excuse arises’ list. They have an amazing color, more like black than that light milk chocolate brown you normally run into with chocolate cupcakes. There is cocoa in the icing, cocoa in the cake, and semisweet chocolate chips somewhere in the middle. And if you are within 10 feet of these, your glucose levels will start to rise. The smell is overwhelming. Amazing. Unmistakable. Chocolate.

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gourmet, you say?

I don’t venture into the world of cookies often enough. I forget that there is an entire culinary experience there, from the rich and gooey to crisp and crunchy. Some iced, sprinkled, rolled, folded, layered, and cut out. I found these and couldn’t resist their adorable charm, a creative twist on a never old favorite. The deep cocoa flavor of the sandy cookie is an excellent contrast to the smooth flavor of the white chocolate ganache filling—a filling I plan on thickening up a bit and topping cupcakes with in the very near future. No one believed me when I said the chocolate cookie was homemade. They come out perfect, like something you pull out of a neatly packed sleeve and minutes later realize you’re not sure where that row went…The great thing about these cookies is that they echo the classic oreo flavor without challenging it. So go ahead and whip out a tall glass of milk. And dip these with your pinky up.

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how do I get that goodness in me??

(pardon my momentary Brian Regan reference on how pop tarts come with instructions)

Your reaction to the thought of homemade pop tarts may be similar to my reaction when I first saw this recipe, and my husband’s when he heard me mention them, and those people’s when I brought them to sunday breakfast, and…well you get the picture. No one has heard of such a thing–dared to dream such a crazy thought. But it’s true, it is possible. And though the foil packaged, rock hard iced vending machine treats of childhoods past may forever go unmatched due to sheer nostalgia, these treats are a wonderful twist on that old classic. The pastry is simple and delightful, and the most glorious part of all is that you can put anything inside. Anything.

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enchilada? you gotta!

As I’m sure you can tell from the picture, this isn’t your typical enchilada. Instead of the classic red sauce, there is this creamy white sauce that is too delicious for me to describe to you. I was skeptical when I read through the recipe as soon as I saw the words “mozzarella cheese”. Mozzerella? Rarely do my italian cheeses meander south of the border. I think that’s what makes these so special–the creamy sauce is indistinguishable. Others may not know what’s in it (yogurt!), and they won’t care.  We love these with quinoa–recipe posted on the site as well–as the sauce gets all over everything and well…you won’t hear me complaining. This recipe makes 6 enchiladas, which is 3 meals for my hubby and me. It’s inexpensive and is even better as leftovers, if you ask me.

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a better box mix

So not every cupcake can be homemade. I said it. I guess it’s possible but I’m not one to frown at someone when I hear they ‘made it from a box’. I used to bake exclusively that way—but it’s hard to go back once you realize the simplicity, unending possibilities, and sheer incomparable texture and flavor of homemade cake. But there is a secret, a way to amp up that box mix that a blessed few (well…many judging by the popularity of the books) have been bestowed the knowledge of. It makes the result more moist and closer to a homemade feel—close enough, in fact, that it’s your choice if you tell people it’s homemade or not.

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to chase away the blues

Just the other morning I woke up in the mood to make muffins. Fresh, hot muffins to bring to my coworkers to brighten up the day and make the morning a little more bearable. I searched all over for a ‘quick, easy muffin recipe’ and realize that the time it was taking me to look one up (and then to make them) wouldn’t fit into my tight-due-to-alarm-snoozing morning schedule. I grabbed my ‘add water!’ packet of blueberry mix (bought in a fit of bogo maddness) out of the pantry and realized I forgot how strange it is to have people compliment you on something you stirred water into with a spoon for 2 minutes. And though great for a quick muffin emergency—what, you don’t have those now and then?–the look of those small round polka dot like blueberries that came out of the packet reminded me more of large poppy seeds than those wonderful, plump things that actually grow in fields and burst when they bake. So the next morning I was at it again, blueberry baking the way Martha would have wanted, with sugar and butter and a carton overflowing with sweet, tart blueberries. It made a thick, doughy batter that only gets better as it bakes. There’s something wonderful about messy purple swirls in a homemade blueberry cupcake, something lovely and wild. Top with a lemon glaze to put these over the edge—enjoy!

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