Thursday, May 19, 2011

Streusel-topped Banana Muffins

Rarely is there a recipe that is so simple that a 3 3/4 year old can do [most of] it, but this recipe is. 
I went on a shopping spree at Jenkins Farm Market last week and got so much produce that our bananas browned  before they were all eaten.  In this house, bananas have a very short shelf life.  We won't eat them green and we won't eat them once they start to get little brown speckles on the skin; however, everyone loves banana muffins.  

If you're the "waste not, want not" type, this recipe is just for you.  Here is what you'll need:


  • 3/4 cups all-purpose flour*
  • 3/4 cups whole-wheat flour* 
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil**
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Combine dry ingredients.  *You can use all-purpose flour, whole-wheat, or half-and-half.  I prefer half-and-half because it gives the muffins more substance without being too crumby.  

Peel bananas

Try not to be grossed out by the brown mushy spots.

In a separate bowl, add bananas

Mash bananas.

My assistant enjoyed this part immensely.

Add the egg.

Pour in the vegetable oil.  **Melted butter can be substituted, but we prefer vegetable oil.

Add the brown sugar.

This is what it should look like.

Mix until thoroughly blended.  There will still be small chunks of banana - that's OK!

Pour banana mixture into dry ingredients.

Use a rubber spatula to make sure you get all of it.

Gently stir until blended.  Don't over-mix or they will be tough.

Place paper liners in muffin pan.

Carefully scoop about 1/4 cup of batter in each well.

Use any remaining batter to even out wells.

Pulse butter, flour, sugar and cinnamon in food processor.  Use all-purpose flour for this part.  Don't over-process.  The end result should look like this.

Gently spoon 1 teaspoon of streusel topping on each muffin cup.


Dust off any streusel topping that may have fallen onto the pan.  It will scorch and stick to the pan.

Set the timer for 17 minutes.

Place in the oven and bake for 16-20 minutes.  Every oven is different, so check them often and remove the immediately after center sets and a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean.


Amish Rhubarb Bread

"Rhubarb is undoubtedly an especially good medicine for the liver and infirmities

of the gall; for besides that it purgeth forth cholerick and naughty humors..."

- John Gerard, The Herbal (1663)

My husband calls it devil weed.  To this day I have been unable to produce anything that he will eat, which is unfortunate because we have a very prolific rhubarb plant by our garage.  

My grandma gave me this recipe which yields two lovely loafs of sweet bread.  As she recommended, I had it with coffee and it was wonderful.  I kept one and froze the other for my mom when she came home for the weekend; the kids and I polished off a loaf within a few days and mom admitted hers was half gone in a day.

I didn't have time to take a picture of the ingredients so I will just tell you.  This is what you'll need:

Bread mix

  • 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  •  1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups diced rhubarb
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts


  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

  1. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. Beat together the brown sugar, vegetable oil, egg and vanilla. 
  3. Combine flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder; stir. 
  4. Add dry ingredients to first mixture with the sour cream. 
  5. Stir in rhubarb and nuts. 
  6. Pour into 2 greased 9x5-inch loaf pans.
  7. Combine topping ingredients; sprinkle over the loaves.
Bake at 350° for about 55 to 65 minutes, or until a wooden pick or cake tester inserted in center comes out clean.

I followed these directions except for a few things:

  1. I didn't use nuts because I didn't have any, but toasted walnuts make anything better so I would recommend it.
  2. I used whole-wheat flour rather than all-purpose.  It is just better for you and I think it is better tasting.
  3. I used parchment paper on the bottom of the greased pans to make removal easier. 

Popped out clean only minutes after coming out of the oven.

Let cool and slice.  Serve with butter or spread (Country Crock is our preference.)


Monday, May 9, 2011

Heath Chip Cookies

I was supposed to make something with rhubarb today, but I was too busy finishing a handbag so I decided to whip these up after dinner while the hubs and the kids skipped rocks on the creek.  Who said a cake mix has to result in cake?  Not Melba..

Preheat the oven to 375

What You Will Need:

I have never tried this recipe with a chocolate cake mix, but I bet it's amazing.  I think the bake temperature should be reduced to 350 and parchment paper is highly recommended.

Melt cold butter in microwave safe dish for 35-45 seconds depending on wattage

Pour cake mix into mixing bowl, make a well in the the middle,  pour in melted butter and 2 tablespoons of warm water. Mix for thirty strokes until all ingredients are well-moistened.  Mix in 2 eggs.

Add  1/2 cup of chopped  pecans  and a bag of Heath chips


Drop by spoonfuls onto parchment paper-lined cookie sheet

Bake for 8-10 minutes.  You will want to take them out as soon as they centers are set.  Do not overbake.


Sunday, May 8, 2011


Homemade calzone

OK, so late Friday night my husband got the munchies.  We were out of Cheez-Its (keep reading for a homemade Cheez-Its recipe) so he decided to make a pizza.  Much to his chagrin we didn't have pizza sauce, so he decided to make his own from tomato sauce and a few spices.  It was great!  He had a little left over so I decided to use it in tonight's dinner.

This is what you will need to make homemade calzones.

A thawed freezer bread dough, ricotta cheese, pizza sauce, cheese and toppings
It's super easy and delicious!  First, preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Spread the dough out on an oiled baking sheet or cornmeal-dusted pizza stone

Spread about half a pint of ricotta on one half of the dough

Add the sauce

Top with mozzarella or any Italian blend of shredded cheese

Add pepperoni, veggies,  etc.

Gently fold dough over and roll the seams

Slit a few holes to release steam, brush with egg wash, and lightly salt

Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown


The Miracle of Mirepoix

Roughly chopped mirepoix serves two purposes - soups and stuffing

Not much thought is given to the trio, but it can be a lifesaver.  If you're making soup or stuffing, you cannot have either without it.  It's the simple savory mix that separates a "meh"  from a "mmmmoh my!" My husband made a ridiculously good roasted chicken last night.  Even after we had all eaten our fill, there was just too much meat left on the bones to throw out (although the neighborhood cats and Maggie would disagree), so he decide to boil the carcass and pick out the bones for me so I could make a soup later in the week.  I will probably post something about it later, so keep reading.

Anyway, if you don't know what mirepoix is, don't worry.  I didn't either until I took over holiday cooking several years ago (my MIL is a HORRIBLE cook) and made the fatal mistake of shopping the day before Thanksgiving.  Almost everything I needed for stuffing was gone! Not one bag of bread cubes, carrots, or celery could be found!  I was contemplating replacing the stuffing with broccoli and cauliflower au gratin when I saw it - a cleverly packaged, over-priced bag of pre-chopped carrots, celery, and onions.  I have never bought it since, but I've used it hundreds of times in my kitchen.

I usually buy a bag of onions, carrots, and celery weekly, but if I need to replenish my mirepoix stock or if I am making a large batch of soup or stuffing, I will buy 2 of each.  One pound of carrots, a small bunch of celery and about 3 medium-sized onions will yield one quart-sized freezer bag plus enough for the soup or stuffing.  Here are a few tips for making mirepoix:

  1. Slice the carrots and celery.  Although you will need to pulse it in the food processor (it's faster than chopping) if it's going in stuffing, you will want carrot coins and celery slices for soup.  
  2. Don't even bother slicing the onions.  Simply peel of the outer skin, quarter, and pulse a few times in the food processor.  
  3. Mix thoroughly in bag by turning and gently shaking the bag.  Make sure you use a quality freezer bag and that it is sealed completely, otherwise you will end up with a mess on your kitchen floor.  I used the Hefty One Zip today and a few pieces of onion were stuck on the "track" and I wound up dumping about 1/4 cup on the floor before I realized what had happened.  Label and freeze for future use.  Sometimes, if I remember and have the time, I will spread the mirepoix out on a baking sheet and flash freeze it before bagging.  This should be done every time so you don't wind up with a giant block of mirepoix that you have to bang on the counter to break apart.
  4. A good ratio is 2-1-1: 2 cups of carrots to 1 cup of celery and 1 cup of onion.  I tend to go a little heavier on onion because I happen to like it, but this is a good place to start.
Hefty One-Zip quart-size freezer bags protect the mirepoix from  freezer  burn and  are  really convenient

A quality stock, leftover chicken or ground hamburger, a can of tomatoes, mirepoix, a few spices, and rice is all you really need to throw together one of the best frugal, filling and comforting foods.

Salt, cooking wine, pepper, and a little poultry seasoning prepare the mirepoix for tomorrow's chicken soup

UPDATED 5/9/2011

I added the bowl of mirepoix and about 1 1/2 cups of wild rice to the pot of chicken stock and  meat and simmered it for about 2 hours.