Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Bananas pose somewhat of a problem for me. They’re nutritious. They’re conveniently portable and self-contained. They’re relatively inexpensive. However, I only like them just prior to becoming ripe. Once bananas become fully ripe (and reach the peak of deliciousness, I’m told by others), I can’t do it. It has mostly to do with texture, I think. Too mushy. And the taste. Too much banana. Too banana-y.

As a result, there are usually a number of brown bananas in the freezer, which end up in various cakes, muffins, and breads. Unfortunately, I don’t care for any of those (again, too much banana). Fortunately, I’m in the minority and can always find people to help me out. I’ve taken to making muffins instead of loaves, as they are more easily distributed and don’t end up all in one place (e.g., Jeff’s belly).

Using standard muffins cups and a greased 1/3 cup measure for scooping, this yielded more than 12 muffins. I’m guessing it probably would make about 15. Rather than make more regular muffins, I used a cookie scoop and a little tartlet pan to make 12 little muffin tops (or muffies, if you prefer), as we all know the best part of the muffin is the top, right? Some of my previous Perkins coworkers can vouch for my obsession with muffin tops (“Hey Alex—wanna share a muffin? I left you the bottom half…”).

Little muffies, all in a row...

As you can tell in the pictures, the oven has fairly savage hot and cool spots. It also lacks a window on the door and a light on the inside. I feel that adds more risk (and sometimes, more reward) to the cooking/baking process. I opted not to remove that risk by rotating the muffin pans halfway through baking. Be adventurous! Don’t rotate! Just kidding. Or am I?

And lastly, dear Rachael: I could not help but think of you while I was baking these. I contemplated making a cream cheese frosting, just like they had on the good days at the Norm, in honor of you. Miss you!

Muffin glamour shot!

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon nutmeg

1 ½ cups whole or low-fat yogurt

1 tablespoon vanilla

2 large eggs

1 stick butter, melted and cooled

1 cup (or more) chocolate chips

3 very ripe bananas, cut into small pieces

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease 2 12-cup muffin tins or one 12-cup tin and whatever you can find with which you want to experiment.

Whisk dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a medium bowl, whisk the yogurt, vanilla, and eggs until smooth. Fold the yogurt mixture into the dry ingredients until barely combined. Fold in melted butter. Fold in chocolate chips and bananas, being careful not to over-mix.

Scoop batter into muffin cups using a greased 1/3 cup measure. Bake until golden and toothpick comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes (less is you make smaller muffins). If you’re feeling ambitious, rotate the pans halfway through baking.

Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes, and then let cool on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes before serving. These are best the day they’re made, but have enough moisture to keep a couple days.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Veggie Chicken Pizza

This is my own take on my favorite pizza at work. It also was an opportunity to use up various leftovers in the fridge. The pizza that inspired this is topped with mushrooms, but mushrooms are not my favorite. If you like mushrooms, throw ‘em on. The sauce is so rich and creamy (with a little bit of melted cheese mixed in) that very little cheese is required on top. Unless, of course, you really love cheese.

This pizza smelled amazing and tasted even better. My husband’s response, upon first glance was, “I could eat a lot of that.” And he did.

Chicken Veggie Pizza

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon butter

½ cup cream

¼ cup finely grated parmesan or other hard cheese

Pizza crust of choice (I wrote about my choice here)

Cheese of choice (mozzarella or Italian blend)

Cooked chicken breast, sliced or shredded

Diced bell pepper, red onion, corn (fresh or frozen kernels)

Red pepper flakes, if you like spice :)

To make sauce: Slowly cook minced garlic in melted butter over medium-low heat for 5-7 minutes. Add cream and gently simmer until slightly reduced and thickened. Stir in cheese until smooth and remove from heat. The sauce will thicken upon standing, but will still be plenty spreadable.

Prepare pizza crust as directed. Spread with sauce, and then add cheese, chicken, vegetables, and red pepper flakes. Bake until cheese is spotted golden brown.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

New camera in action: green beans!

I just received a new power cord for my laptop. Hooray! So, I have another picture from my new camera to share.

Over the past few weeks, I've received several large quantities of green beans, courtesy of my mom's plentiful bean patch. I made stir fry earlier in the week and minced waaaay too much garlic and ginger, and that's how this recipe arose...

Green Beans with Garlic and Ginger
Serves 4

1 pound green beans, washed and ends trimmed (either left whole or cut into pieces)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 tablespoons butter (or olive oil, if you prefer)

Steam green beans until still quite crisp, 6-8 minutes. Drain off water if any remains. Push green beans to one side of skillet, melt butter over medium-low heat in open part of skillet, then add garlic and ginger. Cook until fragrant, then mix the beans, garlic, and ginger. Continue cooking until the beans reach the desired point of tenderness and the garlic and ginger are deliciously golden brown. Season with salt, if desired.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Adventures with Eggplant

The computer issue has yet to be resolved, but I was able to get a few pictures of tonight's dinner uploaded.

There has been somewhat of a chill in the air in recent days here in Minneapolis. So, when browsing through options for the eggplant that came in this week's CSA, a baked pasta seemed apt. Rather than measuring the precise amounts of olive oil, cheese, and tomato sauce, I prefer to eyeball it. It saves time and dishes!

Baked Penne with Eggplant- Pasta alla Norma
Adapted from Molto Italiano, by Mario Batali

2 pounds small to medium eggplant, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound penne or other short pasta
2 cups tomato sauce (jarred is fine... and faster!)
1 cup toasted breadcrumbs
1/2 Italian cheese, such as grated Pecorino Romano, Parmesan, Grana Padano, or a preshredded cheese blend
10 fresh basil leaves, rough torn, or leaves from several fresh oregano sprigs
Extra cheese for grating

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9-by-12-inch baking pan with olive oil.

Bring salted water to boil for pasta. Cook pasta two minutes short of package directions, drain, and rinse with cold water. Drain well, return to saucepan, and toss with one cup of pasta sauce.

While the pasta is cooking, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat until almost smoking. Season the eggplant slices with salt and pepper and cook until golden brown on both sides, turning once. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate.

Layer as follows:
1/4 cup tomato sauce
Half of the breadcrumbs
Half of the pasta
Half of the eggplant slices
1/4 cheese
Half of the cheese and basil or oregano
Remaining pasta
Remaining eggplant
Remaining sauce
Remaining cheese and basil or oregano
Remaining breadcrumbs
Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil

Bake for 45 minutes then let rest for 10 minutes. If the cheese and breadcrumbs brown too quickly, cover with foil. Plate up, grate cheese over each portion, and enjoy!

We have a problem.

So, I have a new camera. It's awesome. I also just got back from an amazingly fun roadtrip. And now, I have a camera full of quite large pictures taken on the amazingly fun roadtrip.

Here's the problem: my computer is full. The power cord is also barely functioning. Once both of those situations have been remedied, blogging will resume. Hang tight! In the meantime, please check out my dear friend Britt's blog: Raccoon & Rain. We visited her on the roadtrip, which is a large part of why it was amazingly fun.