Monday, October 26, 2009

Overripe Bananas - Banana Nut Muffins

I often have leftover bananas that have become too ripe to eat (I hate a mushy banana) so one thing to do is make banana bread, which I have done for years, but I wanted to try something a little different so I came across this banana nut muffin recipe from Tyler Florence (found on and it's amazing! If I only have 1 or 2 ripe bananas I throw them in the freezer until I have enough and it works out great. (Just let frozen bananas thaw at room temperature until mashable) I get a great baked good and use up those un-eatable bananas so I don't have to waste them :) You could also use macadamia nuts and stir in 1/4 c. of coconut for a tropical flavor...mmmmm!

Banana Nut Muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 overripe bananas
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup pecans, chopped (I've used pecans or walnuts - both good)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and lightly butter 2 muffin tins (or Pam spray works good too).
In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside. Mash 2 of the bananas with a fork in a small bowl so they still have a bit of texture. With an electric mixer fitted with a wire whisk, whip the remaining bananas and sugar together like you mean it, for a good 3 minutes. Add the melted butter, eggs, and vanilla and beat well, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice. Mix in the dry ingredients just until incorporated. Fold in the nuts and the mashed bananas with a rubber spatula. Spoon the batter into the muffin tins to fill them about halfway. Give them a rap on the counter to get any air bubbles out.
Bake until a toothpick stuck in the muffins comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes before turning the muffins out. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Seasonal Baking Stock Up

When the weather starts to change I get the itch to start baking again! I absolutely love baking, and find that it's so much easier to decide on recipes and get rolling when basic ingredients are in stock. I get a list together and watch ,y grocery store ads; when items from my list go on sale I stock up. The debate of name brand ingredients vs. store brand is up to the cook; but my rule of thumb is to buy basics like flour, granulated sugar, butter, powdered sugar and brown sugar in the store brand form and save that money to splurge on good quality chocolate, cocoa, peanut butter and vanilla. I find the better quality of key ingredients makes up for the store brand flour - but do what you feel. It's also good to check coupons this time of year, I have found many just in the last couple weeks that are good ones for baking! Here are some of the items I like to keep on hand for my favorites:

granulated sugar
brown sugar
"powdered" or confectioner's sugar
baking soda
baking powder
unsalted butter (can be stocked in the freezer)
unsweetened cocoa
*nuts - walnuts, pecans & almonds (store these in the freezer to make last longer)
light corn syrup
semi-sweet chocolate chips
baking chocolate squares
peanut butter

*Nuts can get really expensive, try to incorporate them into your grocery budget when on sale, or even check your local farmer's market.

Of course there will be additional items you want to include for your personal pantry, but you will be happy to have everything on hand when you start to get the urge for chocolate cupcakes!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The BEST Brownies Ever!

I was flipping through an old cookbook yesterday (I mean old, circa 1989 - one of my first ones!) and i came across a brownie recipe titled; "Best Brownies". I figured I would give it a go, and considering I usually make brownies out of the box thought i would try the "from scratch" method to see how they stood up to Betty Crocker's box version. I have to say they are the best brownies I have ever had - their name holds truth, don't wait to try these ones they are worth it!

"Best Brownies"
Book: Hershey's Chocolate Cookbook

1/2 c. butter melted
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
1/2 c. unsifted all-purpose flour
1/3 c. Hershey's cocoa (I use Ghiradelli's)
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c. chopped walnuts (optional)
Creamy Brownie Frosting

blend butter, sugar and vanilla in large bowl. Add eggs, beat well. Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder & salt; gradually blend into egg mixture. Stir in nuts.
Spread in greased 9-inch square pan. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes (in my gas range oven it only took 20 exactly) or until brownie begins to pull from sides and toothpick comes clean when inserted. Cool; frost with creamy Brownie Frosting. Cut into squares.

Creamy Brownie Frosting

3 Tbsp. butter, softened
3 Tbsp. cocoa
1 Tbsp. light corn syrup
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 c. powdered sugar
1-2 Tbsp. milk

Cream butter, cocoa, corn syrup and vanilla in small mixer bowl. Add powdered sugar and milk; beat to spreading consistency. Makes about 1 cup frosting.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Sale at Raleys/Bel Air/ Nob Hill Foods

Raley's stores are having a huge Foster Farms sale on their bone in chicken breasts. I actually prefer the bone-in as they stay moister when you cook them! They are on for $.99 a lb and come with 3 large 1/2 breasts inside. So in total each package is only $2.30-$3.00! I stocked up for winter: freeze, freeze, freeze and use later when Christmas shopping has used up all your grocery money!!!