Banana Bread Bars with Brown Butter Frosting

Well, that weekend FLEW by!  I can't believe it's Monday already, I feel like I just left the office on Friday.  What the heck...

But I guess that would indicate a good weekend, huh?  Robbie and I had another lovely couple of days, very laid back and relaxed.  Just our style.  Let's have a little recap.
Saturday morning Robbie had to go into work for a few hours [it's busy season, remember?], so I hopped off [not literally] to the gym to meet Hollyann for a little workout.  That afternoon, I met up with Robbie at Starbucks to work for a few more hours, and then we were off to the Creighton Men's Basketball game vs. Bradley.  All in all, the game wasn't too crazy, there didn't seem to be much energy from the players or fans.  It was one of those games where you knew the 'good' team would pull it out, so regardless of a close score no one got overly excited.  But Creighton did 'pull it out', marking their 20th win of the season.

On Sunday, Robbie and I got our hair[s] cut together and then hung out with the pups at home for the rest of the day.  And don't worry, I definitely got some baking in on Sunday with our free time, but I'm saving that kitchen adventure for later this week.  So stay tuned.

Anywho, what do these Banana Bread Bars have to do with anything?  Well, nothing.  I'm having a hard time correlating anything significant from our weekend to these bars.  Dang it.  But one thing is for sure, they are outrageously addicting and will become one of my go-to banana recipes from here on out.  They are that scrumptious.

You may recall the Banana Cake I made just a bit ago and say to yourself "what's the diff?".  And you'll say 'diff', too.  Now don't get me wrong, the Banana Cake was fantastic, as every recipe has been from Bake or Break, and much more of a classic rendition.  But what we have here is anything but classic.  However, I still can't seem to fathom why I haven't seen more recipes with bananas and brown butter, because this, ladies and gents, should be illegal.  In all 50 states.

These bars?  OooOOo, these bars.  So stinkin' good!  The banana bars themselves are, yes, reminiscent of  banana bread, yet a touch more dense.  They actually kind of remind me of the texture of my favorite Pumpkin Bars, ridiculously moist and full.  And the banana flavor is extrememly prominent but absolutely wonderful.  But what takes these bars to the next level and beyond is the brown butter frosting.  I can't really explain it, but this combination just works.  More than works, actually.  It's like peanut butter and jelly, simply made for each other.  Got me?

Please note, my description did, in no way, do these bars justice.  You'll just have to make them to see for yourself.  Waistline, be warned  .

My Notes:
  • When browning the butter, make sure to pay close attention.  The 'turn' happens quickly and before you know it, you'll have extra burnt butter, which is not good...

Banana Bread Bars:
1-1/2 c. sugar
1 c. sour cream
1/2 c. butter, softened
2 eggs
1-3/4 c. (3 or 4) ripe bananas, mashed
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. chopped walnuts (optional)

Brown Butter Frosting:
1/2 c. butter
4 c. powdered sugar
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 tbsp. milk

1.  Heat oven to 375F.  Grease and flour 15x10-inch jelly roll pan.  For the bars, in a large bowl, beat together sugar, sour cream, butter, and eggs until creamy.  Blend in bananas and vanilla extract.  Add flour, baking soda, salt, and blend for 1 minute.  Stir in walnuts.

2.  Spread batter evenly into pan.  Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.

3.  Meanwhile, for frosting, heat butter in a large saucepan over medium heat until boiling.  Let the butter turn a delicate brown and remove from heat immediately.

4.  Add powdered sugar, vanilla extract and milk.  Whisk together until smooth (it should be thicker than a glaze but thinner than frosting).  Using a spatula, spread the brown butter frosting over the warm bars (the frosting will be easier to spread while the bars are still warm). 

Yield: 2 dozen large bars


Cinnamon-Almond Biscotti

I figured I'd give you all a break from banana recipes.  For a couple of days at least.  But don't fret, I have at least one more banana recipe I can't wait to share with you guys.  I know you're joyfully jumping around right at this very moment.

But I personally believe that today's recipe is well worth the banana interruption.  Actually, more than worth it.  I'm not even going to begin explaining how much of this biscotti I wolfed down.  Okay, I guess I just did.  But still.  I did share a few pieces of this addicting treat with some fellow co-workers, but I'm shamefully admitting that I selfishly kept a lot of it for my own munching.  It was that, that, that, good!

I've never actually attempted making biscotti before, though I've had it on the back burner for quite some time.  I'm a religious coffee drinker so I'm a little surprised with myself for not whipping these out sooner.  Because we all know nothing goes better with a warm cup 'o' jo [I'm full on Irish now, apparently] then a crunchy, sweet stick of biscotti.  Especially this biscotti.

I'm pleased to say that the process of making this biscotti is outrageously easy.  Even I was surprised!  But I've found that some of the most delicious goodies I've made have been the most simple.  Funny how that works, huh?  Guess that's why I named my blog what I did!

Anywho, as for the flavors, I chose to do something rather, again, simple.  Especially since this was my first go-around, I didn't want to sprint out of the gates just yet.  I, instead, wanted to start with a more basic recipe, something I could eventually adapt in the future with my own spices and add-ins.  And let me tell you, I stumbled upon the most absolute greatest biscotti I've had to date.  No lie.

But what makes this biscotti as special as I'm describing is not only the lovely almond flavors [think almond extract, everyone's fav!] but, what I would like to call, the secret ingredient: yellow cornmeal

O. M. G.  Yellow cornmeal is my new best friend.  Not because of it's flavor [it basically has none], but because of the texture it adds to the biscotti.  Obviously biscotti is crunchy by nature, but the cornmeal adds another element, something I'm having a really hard time explaining but you'll notice it after the first bite.  Assuming you make these, of course.  Which you must.

I've been dreaming about these little biscotti hunks the moment I ate the last one.  Yeah, they're gone already.  So sue me.  But what I'm really excited for in the next round is the endless varieties of biscotti that I [and you] can conjure up.  Like I said, this Cinnamon-Almond Biscotti is very straightforward [yet SO good!], leaving room for any types of spices and add-ins you can dream up [think nutmeg, pumpkin spice, dried fruits, nuts, citrus zests, glazes, chocolates].  See?  Endless.

You're welcome  .

My Notes:
  • When the biscotti are baking for the first time, the dough will spread quite a bit.  But don't do as I did and freak out, this is supposed to happen.  Be patient and your biscotti will turn out looking lovely.

1-1/2 c. all purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 c. yellow cornmeal
1/2 c. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 c. sugar
2 large eggs
1-1/2 tsp. almond extract
3/4 c. sliced almonds

  1. Heat oven to 350°F and center rack in oven.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and ground cinnamon.  Add cornmeal and whisk to blend.  Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar with mixer on medium speed until very smooth (about 3 minutes).  Add eggs and continue to beat until mixture is light, smooth and creamy (about 2 minutes).  Beat in almond extract.  Reduce mixer speed to low and add dry ingredients, mixing only until incorporated.  Add almonds and mix just to blend.
  4. Place half of dough onto one side of baking sheet.  Using your hands and a spatula, work dough into a log about 12 inches long and 1-1/2 inches wide (the log will be more rectangular than domed, and bumpy, rough and uneven).  Form a second log with the remaining dough on the other side of the sheet.
  5. Bake 15 minutes or until logs are lightly golden but still soft and springy to the touch.  Transfer baking sheet to a rack and cool logs on baking sheet for 30 minutes.
  6. Transfer logs to cutting board and with a serrated knife, trim the ends and cut logs into 3/4-inch thick slices.  Return the slices to the baking sheet, standing upright.  Bake 15 minutes or until golden and firm.  Transfer biscotti to racks to cool.
Yield: 30 biscotti


Tried & True Tuesday: Banana Streusel Bread

.  I don't have much to report as of this lovely Tuesday.  My life has been rather unexciting as of late [not that it's really ever exciting, I guess?!].  Apparently I need to pick up a hobby or something...

So we're going to hop right into this Tried & True post.  Sound good?  Good.

I've actually made this Banana Streusel Bread a couple of times.  Gasp!  As you probably know, I don't make many things twice, so if I do, it must be good.  But not only is this unique bread outrageously delicious, filled with banana goodness and chunks of creamy caramel, this loaf is quite pretty.  To go along with the scrumptious bananas and rich caramel [yes, I'm repeating this twice so you don't miss out on these facts!], the bread is topped with crunchy pecans, adding a deep nutty flavor and rounding out the elements oh-so-wonderfully.

This bread, as all quick breads are, is simple and easy, perfect for a busy week night adventure in the kitchen or as a wonderful weekend treat.  Either way, it's a win  .

2 c. all purpose flour
1/2 c. light brown sugar
1-1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. pecans, coarsely chopped
1 (5.5 oz.) package chewy caramels, coarsely chopped
2 ripe large bananas, mashed
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 c. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/3 c. flavored yogurt (plain, coffee, vanilla, or caramel flavored)
1 tsp. vanilla extract

  1. Heat oven to 350°F and place rack in center of oven.  Butter or spray with non-stick vegetable spray bottom and sides of 9x5-inch loaf pan.  Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, 2/3 cup pecans, and half of chopped caramels.  Set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine bananas, eggs, butter, yogurt, and vanilla extract.  Lightly fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients just until combined and batter is thick and chunky (do not over mix).  Spread batter evenly into prepared pan and sprinkle with remaining 1/3 cup pecans and chopped caramels.
  4. Bake 50 to 60 minutes or until bread is golden and toothpick inserted in center of bread comes out clean.  Place on wire rack to cool before removing bread from pan.
Yield: 1 loaf


Sunday Special: Peppered Herb Cheese Roll

.  Oh, heeey!

How's everyone's weekend?  Mine has been just fine, not too much going on around here though.  Robbie is actually heading out of town today for work, so I'm preparing myself for lots of time with the pups this week.  Graham better be ready.

Robbie is anything but happy about this little trip.  Not because he's going to a lame place [he'll be in Connecticut, which is a place he's been to a few times and loves it!] or because he's going to miss me so incredibly much [wink, wink].  But rather because he's going to miss both, not one, but both football championship games today!  Ahhhahaha, sorry but I did get a chuckle out of that fact.  He's been an avid follower of the teams all season long but when it gets to the 'big' time, he'll be scrunched in his airplane seat pouting.  Sorry, love...

However, he's made sure that I'll be sending him game updates via phone as much as humanly possible.  I'm a good girlfriend, huh?

But for all of you other football fans who will fortunately be able to catch the games live, I have a tasty app[etizer] perfect for the big day.  What you have here is a Peppered Herb Cheese Ball, a ridiculously simple and quick dish to put together, leaving you time to enjoy the games, family and friends.  

I made this unique dip last weekend for again, Robbie and his dad, while they were watching, yep, you guessed it.  Football.  Lots of little surprises in that last sentence, huh?  Totally being sarcastic.  But one surprise was how quickly the two gobbled this roll of yummyness down!  Robbie proclaimed from the room how great the dip was and as evidence, brought back an empty plate to the kitchen before the second quarter was even over.  Oh yeah, I brought it to them in the beginning of the second quarter.  Do the math.

Now here's my little note of honesty.  The roll contains goat cheese, which out of curiosity, I tasted prior to mixing.  Hmm...well.  Not my favorite.  It literally tastes like a goat would smell.  Annnnnd I bet that really makes you want to test this out.  But before you prematurely click out of this post, the goat cheese is used in a very small amount, so the taste is rather subtle.  And with crackers, it actually worked.  I promise.  And accompanying the goat cheese is our favorite cream cheese, chives [YUM!], basil [double YUM!], and parsley.  All together, this mixture really came together in an elegant way and I will admit I was rather pleased!  So don't let my last few comments scare you away.  Maybe I should just delete them...

Anywho, I hope everyone has a wonderful time watching the games [if that's your plan!].  I'm hoping for some good games, no blow outs please  .

My Notes:
  • If you're not a fan of goat cheese, check out the original recipe because variations of the dish are included.  I definitely want to try the Italian Cheese Ball!
  • As is most times in our house, we didn't have the patience to wait for the 4 hour chill period, so we ate this right away.  I can only imagine the time allows the flavors to meld, but we didn't find anything wrong with it without the wait.  So dig in!

3 tbsp. snipped fresh chives
3 tbsp. snipped fresh basil
2 tbsp. snipped fresh parsley
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened
4 oz. goat cheese
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 clove garlic, minced

Assorted crackers

  1. On a piece of wax paper, combine 1 tablespoon chives, 1 tablespoons basil and parsley; set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese and goat cheese with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth.  Beat in remaining 2 tablespoons chives, 2 tablespoons basil, pepper, and garlic.  Form into desired shape (e.g., ball or rectangle).
  3. Place the shaped cheese mixture onto herb mixture on wax paper.  Gently roll to coat with herbs.  Wrap and chill cheese ball for 4 to 24 hours.  Serve with your choice of crackers.
Yield: 12 (2 tablespoon) servings

Nutrition Facts: Calories 92; Protein 3g; Carbohydrate 1g; Fat 9g; Cholesterol 25mg


Improv Cooking Challenge: Lemon Trifecta Cupcakes

.  Dum. Dum. Dum.

It's ICC time, ladies and gents!

This time around, Kristen, from Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker, handed the ICC participants these two ingredients...

Lemon and Sour Cream

Not gonna lie, these two ingredients kind of threw me for a loop.  Lemons?  Easy.  You can find an abundant amount of recipes that use this tart little fruit.  But sour cream?  Okay, I can think of a few things here or there, but for one reason or another, I had the most difficult time brainstorming some type of goodie I wanted to make with these two ingredients combined.  I realize most of you are laughing right now at my lack of creativity.  Boo.

Anywho, I finally came across a recipe I had to try over at AllRecipes.com.  The recipe was actually called Lemon Cream Cupcakes, but I had to switch up the name since I adapted the recipe and added in additional lemon flavors.  See, I try to be creative!

And let me tell you, these are cupcakes packed with a citrusy punch!  Whew, are they ever.  But a lemon cupcake, lemon curd filling, and thick lemon icing will do that to ya.  So if you're not a lemon fan, stop reading this post, oh, now.  Because this is a bright, sunshiney, lemony recipe.

But where's the sour cream, hello?  Be patient, be patient.  I'm getting there.  The sour cream is masterfully 'hidden' in the actual batter, making these cupcakes puff up beautifully yet maintaining an [outrageously] soft, pillowy interior.  From what I can remember, I can't recall tasting a cupcake remotely close to the texture this one has.  The insides of this cupcake are truly pillowy, so light and tender.  I really can't think of another way to get this point across.  Just believe me on this one.

And the extra doses of lemon flavor from the lemon curd [is anyone else as obsessed with lemon curd as I am?!] and lemon icing is wonderfully fantastic.  A complete dessert rounded out in lemony goodness.

Well I guess that's all I have to say about January's ICC concoction.  If you're a lemon fan, you'll die for this cupcake.  And if you're not...well, check out my other posts [wink, wink]. 

Can't wait to find out next month's ingredients!  .

P.S. like the name of these cupcakes?!  Well I must give credit where credit is due, so thank you Mr. Nelson for the catchy title ☺

My Notes:
  • I must admit that the lemon in the actual cake is not very prominent.  But because of the lemon curd and lemon icing, I felt like this subtleness was very complementary.  Also, these are the kinds of cakes that are best the day they are made because that's when they're most soft and light.  However, they're perfectly good the following day(s), too, but they'll be a bit more dense [funny how that happens...].
  • I decided to double the original recipe's icing ingredients [reflected below] because when I made the frosting, I couldn't imagine it frosting all of the 30 cupcakes.  This worked out perfectly because it turned out to be just the right amount for a good helping of the icing on each cupcake.  I will forewarn, that you probably don't want to over-ice the cupcakes [is this possible?!] since the icing is rather lemon-flavor strong.  Also, I found when I put on a bit too much icing, it started to drip down the sides of the cupcakes.
  • The original recipe also instructed you to fill each cupcake liner with 1/4 cup of batter, but I'm a huge no-muffin-top proponent when it comes to cupcakes, so I filled each liner just to about 3/4 full [this might actually be 1/4 cup but I didn't measure it, so I'm not sure?].  But the cupcakes rounded out beautifully, so I was very pleased!
    Adapted from AllRecipes.com

    3-1/2 c. all purpose flour
    1 tsp. baking soda
    1/2 tsp. baking powder
    1/2 tsp. salt
    1 c. butter, softened
    2 c. sugar
    3 eggs
    2 tsp. grated lemon peel
    1 tsp. vanilla extract
    2 c. sour cream

    Lemon Icing:
    4-1/2 c. powdered sugar
    4 tbsp. lemon juice
    1-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
    2 tbsp. milk
    6 tbsp. butter, softened

    1 (10 oz.) jar lemon curd

    1. Heat oven to 350°F and line standard muffin tin with liners.  For the cupcakes, in a medium-sized bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt; set aside.  In large bowl, cream together butter and sugar (about 3 minutes).  Beat in eggs, one at a time, until thoroughly combined.  Beat in lemon zest and vanilla extract until combined.  Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients, alternating with sour cream (batter will be thick).
    2. Fill liners with batter until about 3/4 full.  Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Let cool in pan before removing to wire rack.
    3. For frosting, in a medium-sized bowl, beat together powdered sugar, lemon juice, vanilla extract, and milk.  Add butter and beat until smooth.
    4. Once cupcakes are cooled, use a paring knife to cut out centers of cupcakes, saving the tops.  Add in enough lemon curd to fill the holes and top with saved cake pieces.  Frost cupcakes as desired.
    Yield: 30 cupcakes


    Tried & True Tuesday: Spiced Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

    .  Geesh.  These Tuesdays are coming around mighty fast these days.  And I'm quickly winding down the number of old pictures I have for recipes I've tried in the past.  Hmm...what to do, what to do.

    But for time being, I still have a few good ol' recipes up my sleeve.  Treats that have been patiently waiting for their reveal to blogland.  And these Spiced Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies are a perfect example.  A chance in the limelight is just what they deserve.

    To me, the name alone of this goodie screams winter, hot chocolate, and fire-snuggling.  Ha, that's a pretty picture, huh?  And these cookies would be a fitting complement, rounding out this scene to a 'T.'

    So what is so special about these cookies?  I mean they're just chocolate chip cookies, right?  Just chocolate chip cookies?  Shame on you.  These are anything but a plain old chocolate chip cookie, or POCCC as my dad would like to call them.  These cookies are well...spiced.  Spiced with flavorful cinnamon and dark brown sugar, giving these lovelies a deep, rich, beautiful color.  And jam packed with hearty oatmeal and decadent chunks of chocolate chips.  Gah, pure cookie heaven.  I remember making these while I was in college when Robbie and I had some friends over to watch a football game and they got rave reviews.  Rave, I tell ya  .

    My Notes:
    • You can use what ever type of chocolate you'd like, though I would probably stick to regular chocolate rather than white.  Just my opinion though.  And you an also experiment with some add ins, such as cherries or cranberries.  Mmm, those would be good.

    Adapted from chocolate bar

    1-3/4 c. all purpose flour
    1 tsp. baking soda
    1 tsp. salt
    1 tsp. ground cinnamon
    1 c. unsalted butter, softened
    1-1/4 c. dark brown sugar
    1/4 c. sugar
    2 eggs
    2 tsp. vanilla extract
    2-3/4 c. old fashioned rolled oats
    12 oz. semisweet chocolate chips or chunks

    1. Sift the flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon together; set aside.  In a medium-sized bowl, cream butter, dark brown sugar and sugar until smooth.  Add eggs and vanilla extract, beating until very fluffy.
    2. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, mixing thoroughly until batter is smooth.  Add old fashioned rolled oats and chocolate chips, mixing until just blended.  Chill dough for 1 to 6 hours.
    3. Heat oven to 350°F.  Drop dough by tablespoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheet.  Bake 13 to 15 minutes.  Let cool on pan before transferring to wire rack.
    Yield: 2 dozen cookies


    Sunday Special: {Healthy} Homemade Bruschetta

    .  Oh, Sunday Specials.  You have been missed.  More so by Robbie than me, I would assume.  Don't get me wrong, finding good tasting healthy meals is very rewarding, but the process of shopping and making meals that are over in 15 minutes just...rubs me wrong.  For whatever reason.  I guess I'd rather spend that time, well, baking.  I know, it doesn't really make sense but in my own little head it does.  And that's all that matters.

    But the return of Sunday Specials is largely due to the vast amounts of football watching that has been going on at our house lately.  But I can't blame Robbie because I've been just as interested in the play off games going on.  You can't deny that play off season for any sport is worth watching.  Well I guess someone could, but I'm probably not friends with those people.  Kiddingggggg...kind of ☺

    So for the first round of play off games last weekend, I made a healthy version of Bruschetta for Robbie and his dad.  And a little to my surprise, this little appetizer disappeared faster than...well, it was just fast.

    This one [or two] bite snack is outrageously flavorful, beginning with a mixture of basil, garlic, onion, and fresh, juicy tomatoes.  The refreshing topping is placed upon toasted, crunchy pieces of French Bread, a well known combination that is always a favorite.  And what makes it even better is the fact that you're munchin' on something healthy.

    So take a couple of these and enjoy the play off games with us.  Side of guilt not included  .

    3 tbsp. olive oil
    1 tbsp. snipped fresh chives
    1 tbsp. snipped fresh basil
    1 tbsp. lemon juice
    1 clove garlic, minced
    2 c. seeded and chopped plum and/or yellow tomatoes
    1/2 c. finely chopped red onion
    Ground pepper
    1 (8 oz.) loaf baguette-style French Bread

    1. In a medium bowl, stir together 1 tablespoon olive oil, chives, basil, lemon juice, and garlic. Add tomatoes and onion; toss to coat.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Set aside.
    2. Turn on broiler in oven and place rack 3 to 4 inches from top.  Slice bread into 36 pieces.  Arrange slices on baking sheet and lightly brush top sides with remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil.  Broil bread for 2 to 3 minutes or until toasted.  Turn bread and broil the second side for 1 to 2 minutes or until toasted.  
    3. To serve, spoon tomato mixture onto oiled side of each bread.  Serve within 30 minutes.
    Yield: 36 servings

    Nutrition Facts: Calories 30; Total Fat 1g; Cholesterol 0mg; Sodium 43mg; Carbohydrate 4g; Total Sugar 0g; Fiber 0g; Protein 1g; 


    Chocolate Hazelnut-Crunch Donuts

    .  So these are a first.  A first baked donut, that is.  And they most definitely will not be the last.

    I mean c'mon, read that name.  Look at these pictures.  How could they not be good?  Actually, how could they not be fabulously addicting?  I'm still punching myself for not trying baked donuts sooner.

    So where to begin?  First, these are insanely easy.  Yes, there are a couple of assembly steps but I promise that not one of them is difficult.  And by the end of the process, all of the elements come together seamlessly.  In perfect baked spiced donut-chocolate frosting-candied hazelnuts harmony.  Drooling yet?

    I actually came across this recipe over at the little epicurean.  Her pictures are absolutely gorgeous, so it didn't take much convincing to bookmark this recipe and get to bakin.'  And what came out of this 'maiden voyage' was pure deliciousness.

    I must forewarn you that these donuts are not the yeast donuts many of you are used to.  Rather, these are much more dense and cake-like, though scrumptious nonetheless.  The donuts themselves are wonderfully spiced with nutmeg and cinnamon, fabulous complements to the cold winter weather.  And the glaze?  Not your traditional frosting but I was quite surprised at how well the chocolate glaze melded with the donuts and oh yes, the candied hazelnuts.  You probably don't need much explanation there.  But I will say that the chocolate glaze and hazelnut combination is extremely reminiscent of the ever-so-popular Nutella.  As if you need more convincing to try these out.

    The only complaint I have about this recipe is that it only makes six donuts.  Six?  Hmm, definitely not enough for our house.  The two of us alone did some damage on these babies.  So next time I will most likely be making two batches.  My waistline may have objections though  .

    My Notes:
    • You can find dried buttermilk powder at most grocery stores, albeit it is a rather old looking container so it may not be easy to spot.  I found a picture of a brand of dried buttermilk powder online, so that was really helpful to me when looking for it [check out the link I included for picture from a blog I found]. 
    • Apparently pastry flour is not easy to find, so I had to get my Google on and figure out how to recreate it.  I used directions from JoyofBaking.com that yielded 2 cups of pastry flour  [1-1/3 cups all purpose flour + 1/3 c. cake flour] and then took out the 1/4 cup the recipe calls for (I know, a waste of ingredients, I'm sorry).
    • And apparently, again, hazelnuts are not very easy to find either!  So, I kid you not, I sifted through a giant container of mixed nuts to find the hazelnuts I needed.  Now, I don't exactly recommend doing this because it's expensive and annoying.  So if you aren't able to find hazelnuts, I have an out for you.  Target sells the most fabulous Butter Crunch Cashews that are basically the exact same thing you'd be making here.  We had some of these at our house so I chopped up a few and used them to top some of the donuts as well.  They're ridiculously fabulous and pre-made!
    • If you use raw hazelnuts with skins on, toast them lightly in a 325F oven for about 7 to 10 minutes.  Rub the toasted hazelnuts between a kitchen towel to remove the skins.  Once cooled, roughly chop them up.
    From the little epicurean

    3/4 c. all purpose flour
    1/4 c. pastry flour
    1/2 c. sugar
    2 tbsp. light brown sugar
    1 tsp. baking powder
    1/4 tsp. baking soda
    1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
    1 tsp. ground cinnamon
    1/4 tsp. salt
    3 tbsp. dried buttermilk powder
    2 large eggs, at room temperature
    3 tbsp. vegetable oil
    2 tbsp. water

    Candied Hazelnuts:
    1 large egg white
    1 c. hazelnuts, blanched, lightly toasted, and roughly chopped
    2 tbsp. sugar
    1/4 tsp. salt
    1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

    Chocolate Glaze:
    3/ 4 c. semiseet chocolate chips
    3 tbsp. unsalted butter
    1 tbsp. light corn syrup

    1. Heat oven to 375F.  Lightly grease donut pan.
    2. Whisk together all purpose flour, pastry flour, sugar, light brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, and dried  buttermilk powder.  Set aside.
    3. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, vegetable oil and water.  Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and fold together until batter is smooth and and there are no traces of dry ingredients.
    4. Transfer batter to a large piping bag fitted with a large tip or plastic bag with one corner snipped.  Pipe batter into donut pan, filling each cavity about half full.
    5. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until cake springs back when touched.  Remove from pan and let cool on wire rack.
    6. For hazelnuts, heat oven to 325F.  Hand whisk egg white until foamy.  Add in chopped hazelnuts and stir to coat evenly.  Sprinkle sugar, salt and cinnamon over nuts.  Spread nuts evenly on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake 10 to 15 minutes, stirring halfway through, until golden (if chunks have formed, break into smaller pieces).  Set aside.
    7. For glaze, melt chocolate, butter and light corn syrup in bowl in microwave until smooth.  Let the chocolate cool slightly and then dip tops of donuts into mixture.  Sprinkle with candied hazelnuts.
    Yield: 6 donuts


    Tried & True Tuesday: Banana Cookies with Peanut Butter Frosting

    .  All right.  Busy week at work, so all-time shortest post right here.  Let's go.

    I told you I was going banana crazy since, for me, I'm kind of in baking limbo [i.e., between seasons].  But I'm really excited to share this recipe with you because 1) these cookies are beyond fantastic and 2) this is one of the very first cookies I ever made when the baking craze hit me.  And to prove it, I have no picture.  At the time, taking a picture of the cookies [I was about to devour] never crossed my mind, so I'm having to rely on Pillsbury's [beautiful] picture of these Banana Cookies.  Maybe I should do this more often since my own photography seems to be lacking.  Hmm...nah ☺

    Anywho, back to these small pieces of banana heaven.  The cookies themselves are super soft and tender, almost fall apart cookies.  And though they could end right there, they don't.  These 'naner cookies are topped with a healthy spread of peanut butter frosting and sprinkled with a few chocolate chips [for good measure and because the peanut butter-banana-chocolate combo is a no brainer].  Mm.  Mm.  Mm.  I vividly remember making these cookies, and wondering how such an easy-to-make recipe could produce such a memorable cookie.  And memorable they are, as I sit here 2+ years later blogging about them  .

    Picture and Recipe from Pillsbury

    Banana Cookies:
    1 c. firmly packed brown sugar
    1/2 c. sugar
    1 c. butter, softened
    1 c. (about 2 medium) mashed bananas
    1 large egg
    1 tsp. vanilla extract
    2-3/4 c. all purpose flour
    1/2 tsp. baking soda
    1/4 tsp. salt

    Peanut Butter Frosting:
    1 c. creamy peanut butter
    1/2 c. butter
    1 c. powdered sugar
    1 to 2 tbsp. milk
    Semisweet Chocolate Chips (for sprinkling)

    1. Heat oven to 350°F.  Spray baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray.
    2. Beat brown sugar, sugar and butter in large bowl until creamy; add bananas, egg and vanilla extract.  Beat until well mixed.  Set aside.
    3. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in medium bowl.  Add to banana mixture and mix until soft dough forms.  Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls onto prepared baking sheet.  Bake 11 to 13 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool on wire racks.
    4. For frosting, beat peanut butter, butter and powdered sugar until well mixed.  Add milk until frosting is desired spreading consistency.  Spread about 1 tablespoon onto tops of cookies.  Decorate with chocolate chips.
    Yield: 30 cookies


    Banana Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

    .  There seems to always be a lull for me after the holidays when it comes to baking.  I feel like I'm in the middle of seasons: cranberry/apple/holiday baking has passed while spring/raspberry/strawberry season is still a few months away.  Apparently it's citrus season but to be quite honest, I've never been a huge citrus person.  Granted, I love me some lemon and oranges but for one reason or another, I always gravitate towards chocolatey-peanut buttery-caramelly treats.  But the other day I read somewhere that banana recipes are in full bloom.  So let it be known that I've forewarned you.  Banana recipes will be flooding LSM in the near future.  Okay, I exaggerated [Robbie seems to be rubbing off on me].  But I will do my darndest to make use of every banana I can get my [bakin' lovin'] hands on.

    So to kick off my banana...kick...I made a recipe from one of my all time favorite blogs, Bake or Break.  As you maybe recall, I've made numerous things from this blog (e.g., Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cake and Hummingbird Cupcakes) and not one disappointed in the slightest.  And as we can all assume, this Banana Cake followed suit.

    I'm not sure I've mentioned this before, but I recently became a committee chair for a brand [spankin'] new employee resource group at work, called the Asian Employee Resource Organization (AERO).  Since the group is being built from well, nothing, and we're only just coming together, the leadership members decided some type of small gathering would be good to put some faces to those names.  As the Professional Networking chair, I organized a little luncheon potluck this last week and as my contribution, I brought this lovely Banana Cake.

    Albeit, I was a wee bit nervous bringing a dish that I had never attempted [nor tasted], but shame on me.  Never have a doubt when attempting anything from Bake or Break.  Trust me, I've learned my lesson now.

    This cake is so very simple yet yields such a wonderful treat.  I'll admit, it was a nice change from the heavy, rich desserts I surrounded myself with during the holidays.  The cake itself is uber banana-ey, much like a banana bread [thank you Captain Obvious].  However, it was more dense than your typical banana bread, lending itself well to a rich, smooth classic cream cheese frosting.  I also added on a sprinkling of toasted walnuts, which I absolutely adored.  They added a fantastically deep note to the entire dish, I kind of demand that you do not leave these out.

    So when you're finished browsing blogs and checking e-mails this lovely Saturday morning, head on into the kitchen and use those almost-too-ripe bananas on your kitchen counter to make this recipe.  I really can't think of a better way to use them  .

    My Notes:
    • To toast the walnuts, evenly spread the walnuts on a baking sheet and bake in the oven at 350°F for about 5 minutes or until fragrant.
    • The original recipe called for a slightly smaller amount of cream cheese frosting, but I'm an avid frosting lover and knew I needed that extra dose.  I've reflected my changes in the ingredients below but check out the original recipe for the reduced frosting ingredients amounts [oh, and gorgeous pictures of this cake!].
    • Next time around [and there will be a next time, my dad would love this!] I would be interested in trying either a peanut butter or chocolate cream cheese frosting or adding in some mini chocolate chips to the cake.  Fun ways to switch it up!

    Adapted from Bake or Break

    4 large ripe bananas
    1/4 c. milk
    2 c. all purpose flour
    2 tsp. baking powder
    1/2 tsp. salt
    4 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
    2 tbsp. canola oil
    3/4 c. sugar
    2 large eggs, at room temperature
    1 large egg white, at room temperature
    1 tsp. vanilla extract

    Cream Cheese Frosting:
    6 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
    1 tsp. vanilla extract
    2 c. powdered sugar
    3 tbsp. toasted walnuts, chopped

    1. In a small bowl, mash bananas and milk together.  Set aside.
    2. Heat oven to 375°F and spray an 8-inch square pan with cooking spray.  
    3. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt.  Set aside.
    4. In a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat butter, canola oil and sugar.  Beat in eggs and egg white, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
    5. Gradually mix half of dry ingredients into butter mixture.  Mix in bananas.  Add remaining dry ingredients and beat until just combined.  Pour batter evenly into prepared pan.  Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean.  Let cake cool completely in pan on wire rack.
    6. For frosting, in a medium bowl, beat together cream cheese and vanilla extract.  Reduce speed to low and gradually add in powdered sugar.  Spread frosting over cake as desired and sprinkle with toasted walnuts.
    Yield: 12 servings


    Cranberry Upside-Downer

    And let the New Year begin.  2012, what do you have in store for me?

    My guess is too many desserts to keep track of [good thing for LSM] and some exciting trips Robbie and I are already conjuring up. 

    I know, I know, we just got back from a trip, right?  Right.  And it was wonderful.  Hence, our need to schedule more.  They have apparently become an evil necessity in our lives.  But who am I to argue?

    So let me fill you in on the trip Robbie and I just returned from, a special trip down to Scottsdale, Arizona.  Robbie's parents recently bought a house on the outskirts of Scottsdale, in a 'neighborhood' called Desert Mountain [no need to Google, I included a link for you].  When you go to their website, you're hit with the header 'An Award Winning Lifestyle' and I can't really come up with any other way to describe it.  The area is gorgeous, settled in the hilly terrain of Arizona and dotted with ah-mazing houses.  Truly, these houses are indescribable.  Check out the website for sneak peaks.  And not to mention, absolutely perfect weather.  Mid 70's every day we were there.  Oh darn, nice day again?  Spoiled.  And for you golfers out there, welcome to the golfer's paradise.  I kid you not.  Again, check out that website.

    So needless to say Robbie and I got our fair share of sun and relaxation the last few days, spending time  golfing, shopping, laying out at the pool, biking, walking, and just enjoying family time.  Oh yes, and we also got to celebrate bringing in the New Year with his family at one of the [many] clubhouses over a gourmet buffet and live music/dancing.  Once I get all of my pictures uploaded from Christmas and New Years, you can bet I'll be plastering them in a post.  Patience, my friends.

    But you can see why Robbie and I are already itching to get our vacation on again.  It's a disease.  I swear.

    Anywho, to kick-start 2012, I decided to share with you all a recipe that I made for our pre-Christmas softball gathering I mentioned in a post the other week.  As I also mentioned, I made Cherry Walnut Fudge and Eggnog Cookies for the 'party' but c'mon, I couldn't just stop at two things.  No, I had to make a third and oOoo, am I glad I did.  Not only was this dessert easier than I thought, but it was outrageously delicious, far exceeding any [already high] expectations I had using a recipe from Dorie Greenspan.

    This dessert has all of the wonderful elements you could hope for in a cake.  Soft, sweet, brown sugary cake topped with fresh, tart cranberries and crunchy pecans together with a simple butter-sugar mixture.  To round out the treat, red currant jelly is slathered across the top, which ever-so-slowly drips down the sides of this warm cake.  This recipe is sweet enough for a dessert, but could also be served as a decadent breakfast.  Or just as a snack here or there, it's really up to you!

    When you bite into this cake, that's when the magic truly happens.  To me, the appearance of this dessert wasn't anything outrageous [gasp].  But the moment my taste buds got a sneak peak, that all went out the window.  My favorite part is the burst of tartness you get every once in a while from the cranberries, complemented by the deep, rich nuttiness from the pecans and brown sugary goodness from the cake.  It all works together in complete harmony.

    Well, I hope everyone's New Years and New Years resolutions are off to a good start. If not, make this cake.  It'll make anything and everything brighter.  Happy New Year all!  .

    My Notes:
    • I'm saddened to write that I don't have step-by-step pictures for this recipe.  I was in a mad rush making all of the goodies for the party and didn't have time.  But don't fret, this cake is easy peasy to put together.

    1 c. all purpose flour
    1 tsp. baking powder
    1 tsp. ground cinnamon
    1/4 tsp. salt
    14 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
    1 c. minus 2 tbsp. sugar
    1/4 c. chopped pecans
    2 c. fresh or frozen cranberries (if frozen, do not thaw)
    2 large eggs
    1 tsp. almond extract
    1/3 c. whole milk
    1/3 c red currant jelly

    1. Heat oven to 350°F.  Place 8-inch pan onto baking sheet; set aside.
    2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.  Set aside.
    3. Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in small saucepan.  Sprinkle in 6 tablespoons of sugar and cook, stirring until mixture comes to boil.  Pour evenly into bottom of pan.  Sprinkle over pecans and top with cranberries.  Set aside.
    4. In large bowl, beat remaining 8 tablespoons of butter on medium speed until smooth.  Add remaining 1/2 cup of sugar and continue beating until pale and creamy (about 3 minutes).  Add eggs, one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition.  Pour in vanilla extract.  Reduce mixer speed to low and add half of dry ingredients, mixing only until it disappears into batter.  Mix in milk and then the remaining dry ingredients.  Spoon batter over cranberries and smooth the top with a rubber spatula.
    5. Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until cake is golden and toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean.  Remove from oven and run a knife around edges before inverting cake onto serving platter (scrape any of the cranberry mixture left in the pan onto cake).
    6. Warm red currant jelly in small bowl in microwave.   Gently brush the jelly over the hot cake.
    Yield: 6 to 8 servings
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