Saturday, November 22, 2014

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins and Reflections on Turning Fifty

They tell me that 50 is the new fabulous…..Do I believe them?  Maybe.   I know that I am closer to death than I am to birth.  A reminder that life has a finite span.  This thought both sobers me and liberates me.  Makes me stop and think often of what's important, what's not.

I used to be able to eat whatever I wanted to eat, HELL NO, not anymore.  DITTO on eating after 9:00 p.m.   Love jalapeno poppers, ate six of them recently, had a burn for six days.

This new decade has given me the freedom to make new choices and the courage to do them.  I prefer the "complex" to the "complicated"  complex is so much more interesting.  I am a bit more daring, more adventorous and more loving.  I believe now I have experience and wisdom to share….Whoa, when did I arrive there (laugh).  I am hopeful that I will take my new decade to continue to explore and discover the world around me with a focus on making a difference.

So, my first fifty-year old blog post is going to start with ridding myself of the frozen overripe bananas in my freezer.  I am in a vicious cycle.   I buy them, they sit to long on my counter, and I throw them in a ziploc bag in my freezer, and before I know it, I am being over run with mystery date bananas.  A experienced fifty year old might simply unload her freezer full of bananas into the waste can and be done-but, I am a young fifty year old still exploring her options.

The recipe calls for using a 12-count muffin pan.  Hey, I am fifty and I used a 6-count mini-bundt pan.

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins
Makes 12
Recipe from Epicurious

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 2 large)
1 large egg
1/2 cup unslated butter, melted
1/4 cup milk
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line twelve 1/3 cup muffin cups with muffin liner.  Mix flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.  Mix mashed bananas, egg, melted butter and milk in medium bowl.  Stir banana mixture into dry ingredients just until blended (do not over mix).  Stir in chocolate chips.

Divide batter among prepared muffin cups, filling each about 3/4 full.  Bake muffins until tops are pale golden and tester inserted into center comes out with some melted chocolate attached but no crumbs, about 25-30 minutes.  Transfer muffins to rack and cool.


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Sunday, November 2, 2014

Dark Chocolate Black Bean Brownies

I would have probably raised my eyebrow had it been mentioned that black beans would be a healthy alternative ingredient to flour in brownies. It would have been difficult to imagine.  Obviously I am behind in the baking times…Not anymore. I am a believer. With the rise in sensitivity to gluten it has become known that bean flour or in this case A Can of BEANS is a good alternative to white flour for cakes, muffins and BROWNIES!

The jackpot has been won with this one bowl, one pan delight.  I love to bake when I don't have to think too hard, and when dessert has an opportunity to be enjoyed as a guilt-free pleasure.

Dark Chocolate Black Bean Brownies
Serves 10
Recipe from Rebecca Andexler

1 can (15-ounces) Black Beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs
4 tablespoons butter
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 piece of parchment paper
Butter, softened for greasing pan

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2.  Line 8"X 8"X 2" baking pan with parchment paper and grease with butter

3.  Combine Black Beans, chocolate chips, flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt, eggs, butter and vanilla extract in bowl of food processor.

4.  Secure food processor lid and blend until mixture is smooth, about 2 minutes.

5.  Spread batter evenly into prepared baking pan, using rubber spatula to scrape batter from bowl.  If desire, sprinkle chocolate chips and walnuts evenly over top.

6.  Bake 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of brownie comes out clean.

7.  Remove pan from oven and allow brownies to cool completely before cutting into squares.

Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, if desired.

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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Easy Lemon Cookies

One bowl,  five ingredients,  a roll in confectioners sugar, what is not to love. 

Easy Lemon Cookies
Makes 15-18 
Recipe from 

1 box (16-18 ounces) package lemon cake mix
2 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1/3 cup confectioners sugar

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).

2.  Pour cake mix into a large bowl.  Add eggs, oil, and lemon extract until well blended.  Drop teaspoonfuls of dough into a bowl of confectioners sugar.  Roll them around until they are lightly covered.  Once sugared, put them on an ungreased cookie sheet.

3.  Bake for 6-9 minutes in the preheated oven.  The bottoms will be light brown, and the insides chewy.


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Thursday, October 2, 2014

Roasted Poblano Corn Chowder

Early autumn still means that peppers including poblanos are still abundant in overgrown summer gardens that are being prepared for the transition to the fall garden here in north Florida. This means as the fall bell rings there is time to still enjoy peppers in hearty soups and stews.

The mildly spicy Mexican poblano pepper is the highlight in this easy to prepare chowder.  The key to the flavor in this soup is roasting the poblano pepper which requires minimal skill and always delivers impressive results. This goodness is then simmered in a vegetable broth with milk creating a hearty base.  The addition of garlic, onion, celery, potatoes and corn with a pinch of cayenne make it all come to come together in a one pot wonder.

This roasted poblano corn chowder can also be made in large batches to serve up to a crowd or to freeze to enjoy throughout season.

Roasted Poblano Corn Chowder
Makes 12 (1 cup servings)
Recipe Adapted from Emily Bites

3 poblano peppers
1 red bell pepper, halved
3  Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1/4+ 1 Tablespoon flour
6 cups vegetable broth
2 cups whole milk
1-1/2 lbs. potatoes, diced
1 (16-ounces) package of frozen corn kernels
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper, to taste


1.  Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.  Brush the outsides of the poblano and red peppers with the olive oil and set them on the baking sheet.  Place in oven to roast for approximately 30 minutes until the skin on the peppers is charred and peels off easily.   Peel the skins off peppers, and slice them open to discard the seeds.  Chop the peppers into small pieces and set aside.

2.  In a large pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat.  Add the garlic, onion, celery and sauté for approximately 5 minutes until the onions are translucent.  Reduce the heat to low and stir in flour to coat the vegetables. Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently.  Turn the heat to high and slowly whisk in the vegetable broth, stirring constantly.  Add the milk and stir to combine.  Bring the soup to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer for 5 minutes, stirring often.  Add the poblanos, red pepper, potatoes, and corn.  Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.  Add the cayenne, salt and pepper and stir.


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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Best Ever Banana Nut Bread

I lured you in with my title  "Best Ever" Banana Nut Bread.  The truth is this banana bread is damn good.  All these years and what seems like a thousand recipes later, I finally stumbled on a recipe that is going to become part of my permanent file.

There is this vague recollection in the forest of my mind that banana cake was made for my birthday in my very early years. It must have stuck because I have a fondness for things banana, except for bananas foster.  There is something about setting bananas on fire, and having your bananas served up warm, wet and gooey. Sorry, I digress.

Let me end by saying if you have overripe bananas hanging around on your kitchen counter or bagged up by the dozen in the freezer, then this post serves as your inspiration to get making Banana Bread!

Banana Nut Bread
Makes on 9x5-inch Loaf
Recipe from Food and Wine

3/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (3-ounces)
1-1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
3 medium overripe bananas, mashed (1-1/4 cups)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Coat a 9x5 inch loaf pan with cooking spray.  Spread the walnuts in a pie pan and toast in the oven for 5 to 8 minutes, or until fragrant; let cool.

2.  In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the baking soda, cinnamon and salt.  In another bowl, combine the sugar, eggs and oil and beat at high speed until light-colored and creamy.  Add the mashed bananas and vanilla and beat until smooth.  Stir in dry ingredients until throughly blended.  Fold in the nuts.

3.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake in the middle of the oven for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the top is springy and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let the loaf pan cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning it out onto a rack to cool completely.  Wrap the bread in plastic and refrigerate for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 2 months.

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Sunday, September 7, 2014

Big, Fat, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

In case you are in the mood for chocolate chip cookies……And you don't have a personal recipe to call your own.

Big, Fat, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes about 18 cookies
Recipe from All Recipes

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup insalted butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

1.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).  Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.

2.  Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.

3.  In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended.  Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until light and creamy.  Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended.  Stir in the chocolate chips by hand using a wooden spoon.  Drop cookie dough 1/4 cup at a time onto prepared cookie sheets.  Cookies should be about 3 inches apart.

4.  Bake for 15 to 17 minutes in the preheated oven, or until edges are lightly toasted.  Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sunday Supper: Adoración's Spanish Paella

Paella is a classic Spanish dish that is defined as a rice stew  A dish made of saffron flavored rice with chicken, shellfish, and a variety of other ingredients cooked together to create a communal style meal, meaning that everyone finds a place around the pan to enjoy. 

Americans tend to lean into the belief that paella is served on special ocassions or as a fancy dish in a Spanish restuarant.  The reality is Spanish families prepare paella often for their families, in a simple good old-fashioned way….. At home, and on their stove top.  Sometimes with a paella pan, or a large skillet.  

Two things struck me about this classic Spanish dish.  First, it is not a complicated dish and almost any ingredient can be used in paella.  Second, this is a dish that is accessible to all cooks. There are as many ways to prepare paella as there is a Sunday Sauce, the possibilities are endless. 

On a blistering hot afternoon in Madrid I sat in Adoración's kitchen to watch and learn how a Spanish family prepares Paella.  Like most recipes in Spanish families they are handed down from mother to daughter, and remain timeless.  In my elementary Spanish I wrote down feversihly the ingredients,  snapped photos and wrote her directions.  I give my best effort and my heart to provide you with her recipe.

To begin, a sofrito is prepared which commonly includes garlic, onion, paprika (peppers) and tomatoes cooked in olive oil.  This creates the flavor foundation in many Spanish dishes.  Interesting, onion is commonly used in Spain but in this dish is purposefully left out.

Meats are cooked individually and then removed. The chicken and fish has been removed and calamari has been added.

When all the meats have been cooked the ingredients are returned to the pan and water or broth is added.  The rice will be added and the paella will be brought to a hard boil for several minutes and it will then be returned to a simmer.

Adoración reminded me of the importance to taste start to finish and adjust your seasoning.

The result is a beautiful classic, family style paella

Adoración's Spanish Paella 
Serves 6-8

Equipment Needed:  A round 10-12" skillet or small paella pan

1/4 cup olive oil
2 bell peppers (chopped into large pieces)
1lb. white fish, cut into chunks (note: Monkfish was the fish of choice as it is an appreciated fish enjoyed often in Spain)
1-1/2 lbs. chicken breasts, cut into chunks
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2-ounces red pimento 
8-ounces small tender early green peas
8-ounces canned white albacore chunk tuna, drained
8-ounces artichokes, drained, chopped
Salt to Taste
Spanish Saffron a/k/a Spanish Red Gold
1 packet Sazón (Means "Seasoning" in Spanish. The seasoning adds flavor and also the subtle orange hue to the rice). This seasoning packet is easily found in the ethnic section of your grocery store.
1lb. fresh calamari
4 cups short grain rice
8 cups water or broth (seafood or chicken)
*Pinch of sugar to reduce the acid of the tomatoes


1.  Heat olive oil and add bell peppers and cook until to translucent (about 3-4 minutes) Remove.  

2.  Add chicken breasts to hot oil, and season with salt.  Cook (about 3-4 minutes) browning the chicken breasts is not necessary.  Remove from heat.  

3.  Add tomatoes, a pinch of sugar, peppers, garlic, salt to taste and simmer for 3-4 minutes.  

4.  Add calamari, chicken, and fish to tomato and garlic mixture. Simmer on low heat for 5-6 minutes.  

5.  Add water, tuna, and peas.  Simmer to a boil.  Add saffron and Sazón.  

6.  Add rice, bring to a hard boil (approximately 10 minutes)  turn down temperature to a simmer for 5 minutes, and rest for another 10 minutes. Add artichokes, dress wth the pimento peppers and serve.


Note:  I have been asked many times how an opportunity like this journey to Spain came to be a reality.  Over the years, our family has hosted students from Europe (Germany, Netherlands and Spain). These children spend a high school year with our family and become very much part of our family.   This past year, we hosted a wonderful child from Spain. This summer we traveled to Spain to meet his family, it was truly an absolutely amazing experience.
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