Batter Licker

March 21, 2012

cherry-studded banana bran whole grain muffins

I recently started setting up a sort of brown banana renewal system. I’ll buy a few super green ones and a few yellow ones each week, and then find myself with a consistent supply of brown, spotted mushiness that is sufficient for my peanut butter shake and green smoothie purposes.

It was all working out swimmingly until I got tempted by the very cheap, very large bunch of jet-sized bananas at Costco. Suddenly, I had a serious overflow problem.

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The first resolution that came to mind was banana bread, which would also conveniently free up some precious space in my overstuffed pantry. Okay, maybe it was actually equal parts resolution and excuse to fill my apartment with the fragrant aroma of freshly baked banana bread.

Either way, I wanted to make a more portable, healthful, whole grain, breakfast-appropriate version. (more…)

January 9, 2012

roasted chicken, cabbage and bosc pear

This might be the easiest dinner ever. Prep takes mmmmmmmm … maybe five minutes, involving only a little basic slicing and the rubbing and sprinkling of spices. Then the oven works its magic for 45 minutes or so while the scent of roasted chicken wafts through the air, tickling noses and taste buds alike.

And have you ever had roasted cabbage before? It’s heavenly. You should try it. Especially if you think you don’t like cabbage. The sweet cabbage develops this nutty, charred flavor and crispy edges that drive me so absolutely bonkers that I make brilliant decisions. Like roasting an entire, giant cabbage for just two people’s dinner. Operation Super Awesome Lunch Leftovers: Complete.

Thick slices of cabbage get layered across the bottom of a casserole dish, then topped with bosc pear halves and sprinkled with spices. Think of this as the platform for roasting the chicken legs.

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Chicken gets the spice rub-down. I chose a mix of coriander, ginger and just a little garlic to go with the pears. (more…)

November 22, 2011

butternut squash cupcakes with maple-sage goat cheese frosting

My butternut squash bonanza continues! Think of this as a play on pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. Except way better.

Honestly, I thought these up a year ago and never got around to making them. But they haunted me through spring and summer, and now that we’re back to peak butternut squash season, I had to make it happen.

So when last weekend’s Friendsgiving dinner got scheduled, it was a no-brainer. I knew exactly what I wanted to try.

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That’s the beauty of Friendsgiving. My friends and I officially launched the make-whatever-you-want concept last year, after decades of being told by our families that, no, we could not make butternut squash soup as an appetizer instead of Bopop’s bowl full of grapefruit tradition, and no, we could not make a cornbread, sausage and peppers stuffing instead of the rustic bread, sausage, apple and onion standard. (more…)

October 5, 2011

project wedding dessert bar: part 5 (curried cashews)

This whole baking-a-lot-by-myself-in-my-kitchen thing is starting to make me go a little nuts. Not because I don’t enjoy it, but just because it’s a lot of time spent measuring, mixing, scooping, and waiting.

So I’ve been trying to find ways to keep the redundant work at least moderately amusing, which largely seems to entail inner – and occasionally outer – dialogue, mostly baking related, mostly looking deeper into things that I’ve always found odd about one baking ingredient (why is “evaporated” milk not called regular condensed milk?), or fascinating about another (how is baking soda so uplifting?).

In other words, I’ve embraced the nuttiness. Speaking of which, spiced nuts are some of the easiest and most delicious treats to make for any affair, and multiple internet sources tell me that they hold well for weeks. They’re also ridiculously easy to store and transport, so welcome to my nut house.

I started with cashews, a nut that I can eat raw, roasted, plain, salted, whole, and in pieces. But curried? Somehow, I had never gone down that road, and as a curry lover, it was about time. Gotta jazz it up for the wedding, right? (more…)

August 10, 2011

honey-drizzled strawberry ricotta-goat cheesecake with polenta crust

At the very beginning of strawberry season, I try to steer clear of that fruit, especially in overpriced restaurant desserts. Let’s just say I’ve had too many bad experiences spanning from too-tart and unripe to utterly juiceless and flavorless. I’d much rather wait a week or two until the farmers market berries are deep red, plump, and gushing with sweetness. Then it’s time.

This year, while visiting Boston in the pre-humid days of early June, I took a risk ordering a “first of the season” strawberry-topped ricotta tart at Mistral Bistro. And for once, it paid off.

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From the decadent filling of creamy ricotta, infused with what I originally thought was thyme but have now come to believe was lavender, to the juicy strawberry topping drizzled in local honey, the dessert was one to remember. And to recreate. (more…)

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