Sunday, August 23, 2009

Mom's Banana Apple Bread

This week's Sweet Melissa Sundays recipe was chosen by Joy of Hot Oven, Warm Heart. If you haven't already checked out her site, you should definitely make a point of doing so. Not only does she have a wonderful way with words, but she has intersting anecdotes about the history of her various recipes.

Joy chose Mom's Banana Apple Bread and I must start by saying I absolutely love banana bread. Its one of those foods that reminds me of a warm blanket on a cold day, a mother's hug, a good snuggle... comfort food! It was fitting that Joy would pick a recipe like this as she seems to be such a warm and caring person. I have to admit though, I went into this recipe a little biased. My dad makes banana bread all the time and I typically use his recipe. I tried a couple other recipes, but always come back to the one he makes. However, the apples seemed like a nice twist and I was intrigued by the choice of spices. I have had cinnamon in bananas foster and nutmeg in banana smoothies, but never together.

The bread is super easy to throw together. It calls for sauteeing the apples before adding them to the banana bread batter which seemed interesting to me. Anytime I have added apples to baked goods, I just throw them in, but I think you sautee them to carmelize them. When I finished mixing the ingredients, I was a little thrown off by how much batter seemed to be in the bowl. The recipe says to use a 1 1/2 quart loaf pan- I have no concept of how big a loaf pan of this size is supposed to be, but obviously the ones I have are much smaller. I doubled the recipe because I had quite a few bananas to use up and I ended up with two nine inch loaves and a bundt cake. This was fine because we had a baptism to go to on Sunday and I thought I could bring the cake to the party after.

As banana bread, I still like my dad's recipe better. I think I was anticipating more of a banana flavor, but once this bread sits for a bit, the banana and apple flavors morph into something totally but wonderfully new. I would definitely make this recipe again, but not when I am in the mood for good old fashioned banana bread. Everyone at the baptism seemed to enjoy it- it was gone before we left! My only complaint about the recipe is I think the apple slices were a little too large for the recipe. They kind of pulled the bread down if they were near the top of the batter, so my loaves looked a little lumpy. The slices also pulled away from the cake in some places. Next time I will cut the slices again in half or thirds. And again, I felt the flavor was much better the second day when the banana and apple had some time to blend. I would also like to try to make the recipe with applesauce instead of bananas for a nice fall treat when apples are in season.

Thanks for picking such a delicious recipe Joy! Another winner from from the Sweet Melissa Baking book... If you would like the recipe, you can find it on Joy's blog. And be sure to check out what the other Sweet Melissa Sundays bakers thought!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Camera Question...

If anyone is totally in love with their camera, would you mind letting me know what kind you are using? I used to love my old one but it fell out of our diaper bag in the garage and I ran over it with our car. Needless to say, it didn't survive. I got another one, same brand but different model, and I just haven't been very happy with it. Everything looks either blue or yellow to me. As an added bonus, one of my dogs hairs made its way into the camera lens and I think its throwing off the auto focus. Beagle hair can find its way into ANYTHING! He's so sweet though...

In any case, your thoughts would be greatly appreciated! I don't have as much time to sift through product reviews on Amazon anymore.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

SMS Hazelnut Truffles

This week's Sweet Melissa Sunday's recipe was chosen by Annie of Living Life Foodcariously. Hazelnut Truffles... one of my favorite food combinations! I think the first time I fell in love with chocolate and hazelnuts was when my college roommate and I went to France for Spring Break our senior year (I know- France and not Cancun?!). I bought one of the Ritter Sport bars from the grocery store that was just around the corner from the hotel we were staying in and was completely enamoured by it! How excited was I when I found the bars a couple years later when a Trader Joes opened near my parents' house. It seems like they are available everywhere now- one of the benefits of globalization!

The only reason I gave hesitation to this recipe was working with chocolate in the middle of a heat wave. It has been ninety and humid for the past week on the East Coast- not exactly ideal conditions for rolling truffles! But I could not pass up on the recipe. For once I actually had all the ingredients I needed at one time. A lot of people seemed to have a difficult time finding hazelnuts in the grocery store, so I made a point of stopping at the nut shop at the farmer's market. They have a great selection of nuts at very reasonable prices- I found blanched hazelnuts in two pound bags for around five dollars. A steal from what I have read!

I threw everything together during nap time on Saturday and rolled them out on Sunday morning. They were a breeze to make and the rolling went pretty fast using my cookie dough scoop. Since it was so hot, I decided to roll them using rubber gloves. I am not sure why I thought this would make a difference, but it made clean-up a lot easier if anything else. I would definitely consider it for next time! I really dislike having sticky hands...

I am a little short on taste-testers this week since my husband has the stomach flu and my daughter does not like dark chocolate, but my mom and I absolutely loved the truffles! I dropped off the rest of them to my daughters' day care this morning so we'll see what the teachers thought this afternoon. Overall, I thought it was a great recipe, especially considering how easy they were to make, and I will definitely keep this recipe in mind for the holidays. Truffles make a wonderful hostess gift when you are doing the holiday circuit. The only change I may make is to use milk chocolate instead of dark next time. I had also wanted to dip them in white chocolate after rolling them out, but the white chocolate I had on hand looked a little old so I ended up throing it out.

Thanks Annie for picking such a delicious recipe! I would have kept them all for myself if I weren't trying to recover from having the stomach flu! You can check out the recipe on Annie's blog. And be sure to see what all the other Sweet Melissa Sundays bakers thought.

Zuchinni Cake

We have an overabundance of zuchinni in our garden right now and I have been looking for creative ways to use it all. I cubed some of it to make zuchinni pickles (to be posted shortly) and wanted to make zuchinni bread with the rest of it. I wanted to try something different than what I have made in the past and I remembered the Tuesday's With Dorie group had posted a banana bundt cake recipe a few weeks ago. I figured zuchinni could easily sub-in for the banana so I decided to give it a go.

My youngest daughter was up at quarter after six on Saturday morning, and realizing any opportunity to sleep in was lost, I decided to bake! What else would I want to do on an early Saturday morning! I creamed the butter and sugar, walked over to the refrigerator to grab the eggs, opened the door, AND... no eggs! Of course! Why would I ever have flour, sugar, and eggs in my house all at one time. So I packed up my daughter in her car seat and decided to go grocery shopping while the rest of the house was sleeping. Our grocery store is open twenty-four hours a day and I actually find shopping at seven in the morning is one of the best times to go. The only drawback is they don't have all the lights on in the regierated and frozen food isles. I picked up the eggs and everything else I needed for the week and made my way home.

When I got back, my husband and three year old were awake and my daughter was elated to learn we were going to be making a cake at eight in the morning. I think mostly because she knew she would be able to lick the beater before breakfast. After getting everything together, I came to the step to add the yogurt. I was actually prepared for this because I had picked the yogurt up earlier in the week knowing I was going to be making this cake. I pulled the safety foil back from the container to a smell I was not quite expecting and was quite alarmed when I saw purple instead of creamy white yogurt. I looked at the front of the container- Stonyfield Organic Low Fat BLUEBERRY yogurt. I almost cried when I read it. Since when did they start selling blueberry yogurt in big containers! I entertained the thought of making blueberry zuchinni bread but the idea just didn't float with me. I was not about to go back to the store so after a quick scan of my refrigerator, I decided on buttermilk. It is my wonder ingredient and I find it can be used as a substitute for almost any dairy product. So I poured it in and crossed my fingers.

Let me tell you, this cake was really, really good! A far cry from the banana bundt cake recipe I started with, but a new favorite for me. The cake was so incredibly moist and the lemon icing really complemented the cake well. You can barely even see the zuchinni let alone taste it, so you do not have to worry about the cake having any hint of a veggie flavor. I will definitely be making this recipe again! Here is the recipe, adapted from Dorie's original:

Zuchinni Bundt Cake

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, preferably at room temperature
2 Cups Shredded Zuchinni
1 Cup Buttermilk
2 t Lemon Zest
1 Cup Chopped Walnuts (Optional)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Generously butter a 9- to 10-inch (12 cup) Bundt pan.

Whisk the flour, baking soda and salt together.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Add the sugar and beat at medium speed until pale and fluffy.

Beat in the vanilla, then add the eggs one at a time, beating for about 1 minute after each egg goes in. Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the zuchinni. Finally, mix in half the dry ingredients, all the buttermilk and then the rest of the flour mixture.

Scrape the batter into the pan, rap the pan on the counter to debubble the batter and smooth the top. Bake for 65 to 75 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted deep into the center of the cake comes out clean. Check the cake after about 30 minutes - if it is browning too quickly, cover it loosely with a foil tent.

Transfer the cake to a rack and cool for 10 minutes before unmolding onto the rack to cool to room temperature.

Optional Lemony White Icing: Sift 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar into a bowl and squeeze in enough fresh lemon juice (start with 2 teaspoons and add more by drops) to make an icing thin enough to drizzle down the Bundt's curves.


  • It was suggested to let the cake sit, wrapped in plastic, overnight to achieve a better flavor. I definitely found this to be true.

  • I had to tent the cake after about 30 minutes.

  • I'm certain plain yogurt or sour cream can be used in place of buttermilk.

  • As a variation, sub in 1 teaspoon cinnamon for lemon zest and top with cinnamon icing instead of lemon icing.

Monday, August 10, 2009


Snickerdoodles! I feel like its one of those words you can't write without an exclamation point after it. These tasty little cookies were the recipe of the week for Sweet Melissa Sundays chosen by Spike of Spike Bakes.

I haven't had snikerdoodles in ages so I was kind of excited to try this recipe. I am not sure why, but these were never a popular cookie in my house growing up. I think I have only made them myself once or twice. Maybe because they don't have chocolate in them... or because you are supposed to roll them and I am too lazy to do it!

The recipe was incredibly easy to make which was a huge bonus because we were super busy this week. These days, I rate how easy a recipe is to make based on whether I can make it while holding a baby. My daughter, who is ten months old now, was tired of playing with the spices in the cabinet by the time I was able to make these so I only had one hand free the whole time. But they came together in a breeze and I was able to roll them out with the assistance of my other daughter the next day while the baby was down for her nap.

The cookies turned out a little flatter that what I remembered from the last time I made snickerdoodles, but I am not one hundred percent sure how they are supposed to look. And while I did like the recipe, I would not rank snikerdoodles in general as one of my favorite cookies. My daughter loved them and we both had a blast saying snickerdoodle and coming up with different variations of the name- like snickerpoodle or snickertoodles (does anyone else have kids that watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse??). If anything, a three year old will help you get in touch with your inner silliness!

Thanks Spike for picking a recipe that was fun to make more than anything else! Be sure to check out the recipe on her blog and check in to see what all the other SMS bakers thought.

So I just went to upload my pictures and realized I picked up my mother-in-laws camera last night instead of mine, so I'll have pictures coming soon!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Blackberry Cobbler

We celebrated my dad's 65th birthday this weekend and I was in charge of making dessert for his birthday dinner. My family is definitely more of a pie family than a cake one. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that my mom hardly ever made cakes when were growing up. For whatever reason, her cakes never rose- and I mean never! One time she and my aunt were making a cake using the exact same recipe at the same time and my aunt's came out perfect and my mother's was perfectly flat. But she is one amazing pie baker!

Ironically, a few weeks ago my mom and I were flipping through a Southern Living cookbook looking for a chocolate cake recipe to send my aunt when we came across this recipe. The picture in the book looked amazing and blackberries are in season, so I decided to go for it.

Armed with $16 worth of blackberries, I set all the ingredients out and began to read through the directions. It kind of struck me as odd, but you are supposed to make the crust and then roll out and bake half of it, crumble it, and mix it in with the berries. I wasn't too sure about this, but went out on a limb and followed the directions. I really liked the crimped edges of the crust in the cookbook's picture, but I don't have pastry wheel to make the pretty little edges. So I got creative and used a vegetable slicer my mom picked up for me a few years back. Its supposed to cut raw veggies with a little wave pattern, similar to waffle fries. It worked like a charm and now I have a multi-use kitchen tool!

Although it probably would have been a little prettier in a nicer baking dish (I don't have a great picture of it either), the cobbler was delicious, crumbled crust and all. My dad loved it which is what really mattered! Despite the fact that its a little expensive to make, its a wonderful recipe and one I will definitely make again in the future. Oh, and one more thing... the recipe calls for 2 1/4 cups sugar which seemed a little excessive to me. I guess it is supposed to cut the tartness of the berries. I used 1 1/2 cups and I think the flavor was perfect.

Blackberry Cobbler
Southern Living Annual Recipes 1999


8 Cups Fresh Blackberries
2 1/4 Cups Sugar
1/3 Cup Flour
1 t Lemon Juice
4 T Butter (optional)


2 1/2 Cups Flour
1 3/4 t Baking Powder
3/4 t Salt
1/2 Cup Shortening
2/3 Cup Milk

Stir together the filling ingredients and let stand for 10 minutes or until the sugar dissolves.

Begin to make the pastry by combining the first three ingredients in a medium bowl. Cut in shortening with a pastry blender until the mixture is crumbly (I used two butter knives). Add milk, stirring with a fork until dry ingredients are moistened and mixture forms a soft ball.

Turn dough onto a floured surface a knead 6-8 times. Roll out half of pastry to 1/4 inch thickness and cut into 1 1/2 inch wide strips. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet (I used parchment paper).

Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to a wire rack and cool. Break strips into pieces.

Spoon half of blackberry mixture into a lightly greased 9x13 inch baking dish. Top with pastry pieces. Spoon remaining blackberry mixture over pastry. Dot with butter (optional).

Roll remaining pastry to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into 1 inch strips and arrange in a lattice design over filling. Sprinkle with sugar, if desired. Place cobbler on a baking sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes or until golden. Serve with vanilla ice cream and blackberry syrup if desired.

A couple notes...
  • I found it easiest to make the pastry first. While the first part is baking, mix together the blackberries. Roll out the second part of the pastry while everything is cooling/combining.
  • I reduced the sugar to 1 1/2 cups.
  • I added about 1 t lemon zest in addition to the lemon juice.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Strawberry Ruby Red Preserves

My apologies to Margo who selected this wonderful recipe as I'm sooooo very late posting... I almost skipped this recipe because we had gone to the beach the weekend we were supposed to make it, but the flavor combination sounded so intriguing I had to give it a go. I've made a lot of jelly/jam/preserves in the past. My dad always made them during the summer and my sister and I loved to help. The best part was eating the foam he skimmed off before canning the jam (if you've made jam or jelly with Sure-Jell or liquid pectin before, you know what I'm talking about). I do normally use the Sure-Jell when making jam, so I was especially interested to see how this recipe would turn out since it uses apples as a source of pectin.

Aside from having all the ingredients on hand at one time, this recipe was really easy to make. I bought strawberries and grapefruit before reading the recipe all the way through and when I went to make it the first time, I realized I had no apples. By the time I was able to get the apples, I had to break down and let my daughter eat the strawberries I bought. You just can't say no to a kid when they ask for fruit as a snack! One more trip to the store did the trick...

I absolutely loved the flavor of the preserves- strawberry preserves can be a little too sweet sometimes, but the grapefruit counteracted the sweetness quite nicely. I really wanted to make lemon scones so I could try the preserves on something, but I have been so busy lately. That is the one nice thing about preserves- they keep for a long time! I did give a small jar to my mom and dad and my mom said she really enjoyed them. I may have to add this to my list of preserves to make every year!

You can check out the recipe on Margo's blog. Be sure to check out the latest pictures of her adorable dog as well!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies

This week's SMS recipe was chosen by Stephanie of Ice Cream before dinner. Peanut butter cookies... they hold a special place in my heart. For one, I LOVE peanut butter. I grew up on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches- I literally had one almost every day from kindergatden through high school. And it was a saving grace when I was pregnant with my first daughter- I had gestational diabetes and it was one of the few things I really enjoy that I was able to eat without too much concern (even fruit was a no-no). Peanut butter cookies are a staple Christmas cookie in my house as well, so they always remind me of the holidays.

This recipe is very similar to the one I grew up with except we always rolled them in sugar and topped with Hershey's kisses. Funny enough, I always used to pick off the chocolate kiss and eat the cookie when I was little! I didn't develop an appreciation for chocolate until I was older. They are super easy to make, especially considering you skip the sugar rolling step. The only change I made to the recipe was the kind of flour I used. Believe it or not, I had run out of white flour and I had already run the to the store about three times this week and it was raining all day so I decided I had to make due with what I had on hand. After debating between whole wheat flour, graham flour, and oat flour, I went with the graham flour. I figured I love peanut butter and graham crackers so it couldn't be that bad!

I think the cookies turned out well, except they were a little flatter than what I anticipated and I kind of lost the cross-hatch effect in baking. I wonder if this had to do with the graham flour- the texture was definitely a little heavier than regular flour. But the flavor was great and they had a nice chewy texture. My husband loves soft cookies so I think he really appreciated them! The recipe is a definite do-over. I really liked the flavor of the cookie with the graham flour, but I'm curious to see if they would bake differently using a different flour.

Be sure to check out the recipe on Stephanie's blog and to see what the other SMS bakers thought of this week's recipe.

Questions or Comments?

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