Where I’ve been (and a loaded banana bread)

October 2, 2010

Chunky Monkey Banana Bread

I really and truly have not forgotten about you. Scout’s honor.

While I have every intention of finding my way back to this fun space on a more regular basis, at the moment I’m a bit indisposed. Aside from the fact that my appetite and desire to cook has waned a bit (and at times, a lot) over the past few months, I’ve also chosen to spare you from notes about the gourmet delicacies emerging from our kitchen. I can’t imagine you’d have found my saltine, spicy pickle relish and sharp cheddar cheese tea sandwiches all too appetizing. I’m also a tad reluctant to divulge a recent interest (er, obsession) with Cheetos, french fries and meat (roasts, steaks, meatballs, the whole nine).

And if you still haven’t caught my drift, about six months back a little something of a blue line, or double blue line, or exclamation point, or smiley face or some other nondescript abstract symbol appeared one Monday saying “wake up, kiddos, you’re, uh, havin’ a kiddo”, and indicated we had about nine months to fuss over names and nursery colors and colleges (teasing – kind of – and not before we stared at each other blankly for about three weeks, hoping the other would have a rational response to “well, what do we now?”). This puts us a mere thirteen weeks away from adding diapers and wipes and extra bold coffee, red wine and feta cheese to the top of the shopping list. I can’t promise two to three recipes/posts per week in the coming months (er, years) as I did so ambitiously following this blog’s launch, but I hope to drop by weekly at minimum. For my sanity’s sake, at least.
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A spicy craving

May 14, 2010

Spicy Ginger Muffins with Buttermilk Glaze

For the past month I’ve been on a major breakfast smoothie kick. This is odd, seeing as how I’ve never really loved meals in a glass. I want texture and chew, something warm and satisfying in the morning. But what started as the solution to an unusually warm morning and a lack of interest in anything that might cause a make-up melt down, resulted in a daily ritual of a little milk, a little yogurt, a frozen banana, some berries, a tablespoon or two of ground flaxseed and a couple fistfuls of spinach (which, I kid you not, is undetectable, save the slightly off-putting resulting color) whirred together in the blender, which has recently acquired its own very valuable corner of limited counter space.

And so we continued, this morning ritual and I, until recently when my body copped a major attitude and was all like No more smoothies. No more vegetables for breakfast. No more pea green glop. I WANT A FREAKING MUFFIN! Bssshh. [Snap.]

 A spicy muffin for a spicy attitude.
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On baking

March 19, 2010

White Cheddar and Black Pepper Scones

Baking is what first landed me in the kitchen, years ago when the sound of my mom’s stand mixer usually meant a layer cake or whipped frosting. Catching her donning her apron suggested something sweet was in the works. A pie, her favorite thing to bake, meant leftover pie dough rolled with cinnamon and sugar and baked until golden brown would be waiting for us kids on the counter in little dishes. Yes, scraps! Spice cake meant penuche icing and devil’s food promised bright white marshmallowy boiled frosting. Either way, I was there with a spoon, eager for a dip into the leftovers. I remember watching her bake peanut butter cookies, rolling balls of dough in sugar then branding each with a fork-pronged crosshatch. She is so good at this. And when they emerged from the oven, accompanied by a scent I was convinced would also exist in Heaven, they cooled on brown paper grocery bags which seemed to occupy every inch of counter space. One of my favorite sights. I’d sashay into the kitchen. Whatcha doin’? And would leave with one (or a few) warm golden cookies. These moments stand out so vividly in my memory. Good times, good aromas, and, of course, good eats.

I don’t remember when I first wanted to do the baking myself. Here I was surrounded by amazing women who baked. And baked well. Mom’s pies and layer cakes. Grammy’s spritz cookies and pizzelles. Grandma’s potica and yeast rolls. And all of my aunts and extended family who followed in their mothers’ footsteps. Over time, holidays brought not one batch of almond crescents, but several, from the matriarch and her children who desired to carry on traditions. The changing of the cookie and nut roll guards. Perhaps this is what led me to bake. The unwritten, unspoken handing down of tradition. Not so much an expectation or duty, but rather a “hey, if you’re interested, here’s Grammy’s thumbprint recipe”. Though my one dear aunt did entrust me with my grandmother’s potica recipe along with an encouraging nudge to keep this tradition alive. I’ve committed to mastering that recipe, all five or so typed pages of it. I’ve tackled it once but have many more attempts ahead of me. You will likely hear about that recipe one day.

And so I started baking because I really enjoy the art of it all. I enjoy replicating recipes which have made regular appearances at family gatherings and holidays for as long as I can remember. I re-live certain baking memories, like cooling peanut butter cookies on brown paper bags, and create my own traditions, like toffee bars for Kyle’s birthday and chocolate covered cherries at Thanksgiving. There is a comfort in baking that drives me to bake two dozen scones on a Saturday afternoon for no particular reason. No family function or girls’ brunch. Just because. A tribute to the many who baked (and continue to bake) before me.
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Chocolate Banana Bread

February 22, 2010

Chocolate Banana Bread

Saturday was one productive day. I awoke with an abounding desire to brighten up this home. It’s been too dark, cluttered and wintery these past few weeks and we’ve been craving some positive energy. The spring cleaning momentum was in full swing and I had every intention of taking advantage. I swept, dusted and fluffed. He scrubbed, wiped down and polished. I washed, folded and put away. We rearranged, reorganized and repurposed. The sun was shining and as long as I looked out and up (at the clear blue sunny sky) instead of out and down (at the snow piles), I could practically taste April. The kitchen underwent a nice spring cleaning, as well. The cabinets were wiped out, the pantry tidied, the fridge cleared of old forgotten food. And how could I neglect the black hole that is our freezer. Some real gems emerged this month, including soup (I think) with an illegible name and date along with an old, old, old nut roll from last Christmas (as in 2008). On the flip side, a few brown bananas showed their speckled faces. I decided the only thing better than a house filled with the aromas of Lysol and fabric softener is a house filled with the aroma of freshly baked banana bread. Especially one that included cocoa and chocolate chips.
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Yeast was no match

February 16, 2010

Cracked Wheat Bread

Here are some very true things you should know about me. I’m not one to boast. I’m modest. I’m uncomfortable talking about accomplishments.

Ok, with that off my chest I’m going to brag. Real quick. Just for a moment so I can get it overwith. I baked bread! And it looked, smelled and tasted like bread! And it was actually good! Whew. Though I should have prefaced this moment of puffy chested crowing by declaring that I am a self-diagnosed yeast-phobe. Aside from making an easy peasy foccacia (rarely), pizza dough (even more rare) and bagels (once in my lifetime and I am still scarred), I flee from yeast bread recipes quicker than you can say pumpernickel. Well, fled. I decided it was time to face my fear and conquer this whole bread issue. Or at least cozy up to it a bit. And so I scheduled it in my calendar (not kidding) to reinforce this commitment and on February 13, 2010 I managed to bake something edible. Hot dang.
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