I love to bake, however, I don’t do it nearly often enough. Somehow days get away from me, or I don’t have any butter at room temp, or am missing an ingredient, or simply because I can’t always seem to fit it in. However, the first few days of this week I did quite a bit of baking. Probably because I was about to start what would be 11 straight days of work and when I’m gone, I like my kids to have a little something warm, and cozy, and homemade to remind them of me. So this week, I baked. First, I’ve been in a Fall mood for days now so I made a pumpkin bread. I make a lot of banana bread (as talked about in this post), but when Fall comes I like to switch it up and do pumpkin bread as well. I use a recipe from an old issue of Bon Appetit magazine and it’s divine. But then, then, I baked something chocolate! I was actually going to make Ina Garten’s Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars (a family favorite) but my new Barefoot Contessa Foolproof cookbook was lying open on the table to a recipe titled “Chocolate and Peanut Butter Globs” (yes, Globs) and my daughter saw that, and man oh man, that was it. She begged and pleaded (not very much, mind you, because I too had spied the recipe and was already thinking of changing the aforementioned plan), and I acquiesced. They were, in my husband’s words, ridiculous. They really were. Gooey, chocolate-y, with just a touch of peanut butter in the background and a little bit of flour to hold them together. They are perfect with an afternoon iced coffee, or as I prefer, with an ice cold glass of milk.
I love homemade ice cream. Ever since I got an ice cream machine about 8 years ago or so, I have been a convert. There is truly nothing like it. It is so different than anything you can buy in a store, and with an ice cream machine, it’s very easy. A lot of the recipes I make use a custard base which involves heating milk and eggs to a certain temperature and then cooling everything down in an ice bath, followed by refrigerating. And though this isn’t hard, it is time consuming and definitely makes for a bit of a mess to clean up. However, this ice cream recipe has no cooking, no worrying about heating the eggs too much and scrambling them (I’ve definitely done this), no waiting for it to cool down so you can put it in the machine, and way less clean up! It tastes like heaven, if heaven were strawberries and cream. I’m sure you are saying to yourself “Well of course it tastes like strawberries and cream, it’s strawberry ice cream!” But really, when you buy strawberry ice cream, it never tastes anything like a real strawberry. And even worse, it usually has fake flavoring and red dye. So, yes, when I made this for the first time, I was surprised. I kept saying over and over “it really tastes like strawberries and cream”! It is so delicious, I dare you to stop eating it. And with strawberries at the height of their season, there is no excuse not to make it this weekend. Today even! Make it! You will thank me, I promise.
Creamed peas. If you are envisioning over-cooked, mushy peas laying in a puddle of cream like something in an Old English pub, then you are not familiar with this version. This recipe involves fresh, spring peas and it is delicious. I have been wanting to make fresh peas for awhile now, so the other day when there were fresh, English peas for sale at Trader Joe’s, I snapped them up. Now, I must admit, I love peas. Not the aforementioned over-cooked version, but even frozen peas with a little butter and salt, slightly undercooked so they still pop, is something I make often. So the thought of fresh! English! peas was so exciting for me, I can’t even tell you. And though I could have served them simply with just butter and salt, I wanted to do something a little more. I ended up kind of combining two recipes that I found on Epicurious and changing them around to make one that was more what I was going for. Can I just say? This recipe was life-changing for me! The fresh peas had a distinctly sweeter profile than even the highest quality frozen, and combined with the onions, it was scrumptious (yes, I just said “scrumptious” to describe a vegetable). I loved them so much I made them again a few days later and used frozen, just to see how much difference there would be. And though it was still delicious, there is something very special about the sweeter, more distinct taste of the fresh. I urge you to go and get some fresh peas while they are still around (it’s a very short season).
I frequently (translation: almost always) have ripe to overripe bananas sitting on my counter. I don’t know if it’s me, but somehow my bananas seem to go from green to brown with no actual “yellow” stage in between! Because of that, I make a lot of banana bread. Almost every week, I am mashing up some bananas and looking for something to do with them. I like to mix it up a bit, just so the kids don’t get too sick of one recipe. Right now I vary between a classic Banana Bread that is a Martha Stewart recipe, a very decadent Double Chocolate Banana Bread from Smitten Kitchen, a Cinnamon Banana Bread adapted from an old Bon Appetit recipe, a Banana-Walnut Chocolate Chunk Cookie (also from Martha), and now this banana muffin. This muffin is lighter and fluffier than a bread, and it has granola on top for some added crunch. This time I added chocolate chips (request from my daughter) but usually I don’t. It was originally a Barefoot Contessa recipe but I’ve changed it up a bit for our tastes (I took out the banana chips as they are just too sweet/fake for us and the coconut as no one here really likes it). I also took the sugar down pretty significantly, I think for the better.
French macarons… is there a more beautiful cookie in the entire world? The first time I tasted one, I have to say, I was surprised. I expected it to be crispy, and it certainly was crisp on the outside. But the chewiness of the inside, now that was a surprise. A great one is crispy on the outside but has that distinctive chew on the inside. And that little ruffled edge that sticks out around the bottom? It has a name! (Of course, it does! The French have a name for everything, especially when it comes to food and/or cooking!) That is called the “foot” and they are not considered correct unless they have “feet”. In Paris, the Laduree chain of pastry shops is surely the most famous maker of macarons in the world (many, many pins have been devoted to the photographs of it’s beautiful displays). And because it’s Paris, even McDonald’s sells macarons in their McCafes!! So, because it’s Friday, and for no particular reason other than they are beautiful, here’s to the wonderful, the French, the delicious….macaron…. Enjoy!
It’s always a good morning when there is granola involved, don’t you think? I’ve been wanting to share my granola recipe for awhile. It’s something I tweaked and perfected and have been making for a few years now. I usually make it during the holidays and give it as gifts and many of those friends have asked me to share the recipe. I am a true granola fanatic. I eat it almost everyday and bought it for many years before I finally decided to try making it. Much to my surprise, it was super easy and considering how expensive quality store granola is, I’m glad I switched. The great thing about it is how versatile it is. For instance, I use almonds and pecans for my nuts, but if you prefer peanuts and walnuts, use those. Or you could do cashews, or pistachios. I sometimes add figs and dried cherries, but you don’t have to. Or you could add raisins and apricots… you get the picture. Tailor it to your own taste. I started with one recipe a few years back and cut the oil and sugars in half and added the spices as the original didn’t have any at all, nor any salt. But if you want it sweeter or even less sweet, change that too. I usually eat it with greek yogurt with a little honey and fruit for breakfast, but it’s equally good with a bowl of milk. And of course, eaten out of hand it can’t be beat. Makes a great late night snack too!