maple olive oil banana bread

Image

I’m afraid my doctor thinks I’m a hypochondriac. What’s more, I’m afraid I am a hypochondriac.

Today I went to the doctor. My throat’s been all owie and frowny-face, and I’ve been hating it. Mainly because anything even a hair outside of normal gives me the palpitations. So, I spent part of my day off sitting in a waiting room, listening to Kenny G’s sweet, sweet sax playing on the office’s radio, and sizing up my competition (i.e. the other patients).

Some of them clearly had me beat (like the lady with the walker–i.e. the waiting room trump card). But I still felt like I had some clout, considering I was pretty much positive I had strep throat or some other condition that Web MD assured me could potentially lead to death.

In actuality, I have nothing. I mean, I do have a sore throat that needs some time to heal. But you know it isn’t all that bad when your doctor says, “Gargle with salt water,” and, “Take a Tylenol.”

Image

The funny thing is, I was kinda bummed out that I didn’t have anything real. Mostly because I had to report my prognosis to Nate, and I knew I could no longer use my “condition” to garner pity. So I decided to baby myself by making a major comfort food favorite of mine, banana bread. But since I’ve made all sorts of “standard” b-breads, I knew it was time to try something new. Something like Shutterbean’s Maple Olive Oil Banana Bread.

This bread is great. It’s delicious. If your standard banana bread is the theme, this is the best variation. It is different, but in a fantastic way. A little less sweet that what you’re used to, it’s a comforting treat and exactly what my battered throat (and ego) needed.

Advertisements

snow day bagels

Bagels!

Today I had a good ol’ fashioned Snow Day. And, if I’m being honest here, it felt GOOD. There were no snowmen or igloos in the front yard (or, in my case, in the street in front of my condo), but it was still pretty awesome.

I slept in. ON A WEDNESDAY. I decided against washing my hair and wore it up instead. PJs weren’t a luxury, they were a must. And I got the chance to try my hand at something I’d been interested in baking for a long, long time. Today, I made bagels.

The first step was choosing a worthy recipe from the hundreds available online. I went with this one from Emeril Lagasse because it didn’t require dough proofing overnight. Also, the reviews were generally glowing, which is always a good sign.

I’m going to be honest with you here, because I like you: I had some difficulties with this recipe. BUT, I don’t think it was the recipe’s fault. You see, though my dough rose beautifully, it just didn’t hold it’s shape all that well in the water bath. My theories are 1) I should’ve added extra flour to the recipe (might have avoided bagels too sticky to hold a “hole”), considering we were having such a humid day here in the DC area, and 2) I shouldn’t have let the bagels rise as long as I did for the second rise (the recipe calls for 20 minutes, but due to cooking times and other factors, some of my bagels got 40 minutes or more…yikes!). But they still tasted great–chewy with that distinct, yummy bagel flavor. That’s why I think you should still try this recipe. I know I’ll be giving it another go! I’m just waiting for the next snow day…

Happy baking!

chocolate pecan scones

Chocolate Pecan Scone

So, I’ve been sick. And the thing is, I’m no good being sick. I’m terrible at it, in fact. You know those movies, like Fried Green Tomatoes, where the sick girl is pale but lovely, propped up on a pile of delicate pillows and smiling bravely? Now imagine the opposite. That’s me. Hacking, whining, sniffling, dressed in ratty old PJs and sending nonsensical text messages about NyQuil and soup.

Being home sick is boring, and I’m prone to cabin fever. But with absolutely no energy to venture outside, I decided to do the next best thing: bake. Because there’s no better way to forget your troubles than with sugar, flour, and plenty of vitamin B(utter).

Since I had the get-up-and-go of a sedated sloth, I knew an easy recipe was the best choice. And it only took a quick browse of King Arthur Flour’s site to know that these scones were my destiny.

Now, I’m no scone expert, but I think these turned out delightfully. They’re perfectly moist, have a dense crumb, and are lightly sweet. I tossed 3/4 cup of chocolate chips and 3/4 cup of pecans into my dough, but you can experiment with all sorts of add-ins. You really can’t go wrong.

best baked donuts

I’d like to think that I’m the kind of person who eschews fancy kitchen gadgets.

I don’t own a cherry pitter, or an egg poaching pod, or onion goggles (it’s my only claim to “tough girl” street cred…among cooking nerds). I honestly prefer my chef’s knife, 12″ skillet, dutch oven, cookie sheets, and plain, ol’ cutting boards–with them, I can do pretty much anything. Except make donuts.

Sure, I could fry some donuts in the dutch oven or skillet, no problem. But I don’t really like to fry in the condo’s kitchen (there’s no window in there to air the place out afterward). And I always burn myself. So baked donuts in my prissy Wilton donut pan are the way to go in my house, and I make them pretty often. Only, you wouldn’t know that because I’ve never EVER shared a recipe with you here. Well, until now.

Behold Cooking with my Kid’s Baked Maple Cinnamon Donuts (ooh, aah). These are wicked, wicked good. Moist, fluffy, cinnamon-y, maple-y perfection. And they take practically no time to make, which means you can have a delicious donut (or 2) on your plate in under half an hour. That’s a serious return on investment.

Nate and I discussed the merits of these donuts in between bites, and we both agreed that they’re really special. Almost like they were yeasted, though they totally aren’t. My next batch is going to include some pumpkin instead of yogurt–you know, to get in the spirit of the upcoming holidays (like I need an excuse to eat pumpkin).

Enjoy!

birthday double chocolate zucchini bread

“It’s a zucchini the size of a baby,” my friend told me.  She handed me the Anthropologie bag that I had been eyeing earlier, wondering what she had bought.

Inside was a zucchini that was definitely the size of a baby.  On steroids.

“Next year, I’m only planting two zucchini plants, because this is insane.”

I nodded in agreement, but selfishly, I hoped she’d keep them up.  And that I’d continue to be a recipient of this squashy windfall.

“You know,” she continued, “King Arthur Flour just posted a recipe for Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread.”  And just like that, my birthday baking project was chosen for me.

The recipe calls for two cups of grated zucchini.  My monster squash would’ve made 10 cups, so I used the remaining veg to make Parmesan Zucchini as a side dish for last night’s dinner (you didn’t think I would make dinner on my BIRTHDAY, did you?).  The zucchini adds absolutely no flavor to the bread, only tons of moisture.

What you really taste with this dessert is the yummy, yummy chocolate.  I used my Godiva baking cocoa and Godiva dark chocolate chips to make the whole thing feel very adult and extra special.  If I had self control, I would’ve let it cool before slicing, but being implusive AND the birthday girl, I just dove right in.

Since it’s a most special day, I’ve ruled that this is not just a dessert bread, but a breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack bread as well.  And as such, I will continue to eat this ’round the clock.  In fact, if you’ll excuse me, it’s officially Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread snack time and I’d hate to be late.

Happy Wednesday!

perfectly poached eggs

This is a blog post about eggs. Wait! Don’t close your browser window just yet!

This is a blog post about eggs. But not just any eggs. Nope. We’re talking Perfectly Poached Eggs.

Now, unlike most people, I’m pretty new to the egg game. I blame my decades-long aversion on the cafeteria-style scrambled eggs of my youth that were always sad, flavorless and mysteriously rubbery.

But as a person who (clearly) loves to make and eat food, it recently struck me as silly that I’ve been avoiding eggs like the plague. So yesterday I resolved to make myself an egg (a little bit runny, on buttered toast) for breakfast.

As an egg novice, I needed a how-to for my craving, so I immediately dropped by Smitten Kitchen for her fantastic step-by-step egg-poaching tutorial. Some of the instructions seem (to an outsider) pretty standard (get the water hot, but not too hot; don’t try to crack the egg directly into the pot), but there are a few really good take-aways, like using a splash of vinegar to keep the whites from spreading everywhere and creating a whirlpool before you plop your egg in to ensure a nice little egg bundle.

As you can see from the pictures, even as a first-timer, I was pretty darn successful in my egg poaching. Next time, I’ll poach my egg for three minutes instead of four, but I was otherwise totally pleased with the outcome.

Aversion overcome!

french yogurt cake

This cake is technically a French Yogurt Cake. At least, that’s what the latest Bon Appetit magazine says. I, however, like to think of it as the Little Cake That Could.

I was not on my “A” game when baking this treat. The recipe called for an 8″ loaf pan–I used a 9.5″. It directed a light greasing with Pam. My Pam was well past its expiration date (yikes), so I went with Crisco. One jumbo egg had to suffice for two large, because we bought the wrong size last week at the grocery store. By my estimation, this loaf should’ve come out of the oven like a rock or an underdone blob of yogurt and sugar.

Instead, it was a light, lovely, lemony cake. Not too sweet and certainly not cloying, the French Yogurt Loaf made its debut at Casa de Condo after dinner that night and encored at breakfast the next morning.

My version was no looker, as you can see by the picture. Should you decide to make this–and I really think you should–and you follow the directions, then you can expect a much taller loaf, with a pretty golden top and that satisfying crack along the top characteristic of all sweet loaves. But if you miss a step, or get mixed up, persevere. Even a funny looking version of this cake is totally, completely worth it.

sour cream coffee cake of awesomeness

Saturday, I was sucked into a You Tube vortex.

It’s okay.  You don’t need to save me.  Clearly, I survived.

But, seriously, does this happen to anyone else?  I get some song from my formative years stuck in my head, and I go to You Tube to relive those moments parked in front of the TV watching TRL drinking Diet Cokes and eating Bugles.

I started with Better Than Ezra.  Then the Smashing Pumpkins.  Gin Blossoms.  Courtney Love.  Foo Fighters.  Beck.  Red Hot Chili Peppers.   Hours literally passed while I rocked out, sometimes solo, sometimes with Mr. Nate.  Disarrono on the rocks may have played a part in this ultimate time waster.

Yesterday, I made Shutterbean’s Sour Cream Coffee Cake to accompany the second non-Easter, Easter dinner I’ve had this year.  This cake has nothing to do with 90s alternative rock.  It has everything to do with nostalgia.

I grew up eating lots of coffee cake (it was the fall-back dessert in my household, and not a soul complained).  This coffee cake is the “Best Of” remix of those childhood confections.  It has the requisite moist crumb, the cinnamon notes, the buttery awesomeness.  It also has a vanilla wash.  And a maple, vanilla, sugar glaze.  It smells like a Belgian waffle and a shortstack of pancakes.  Booyah.

If you, too, crave moments from your past, I recommend you make this cake.  If you want to completely forget about the past, I still think you should make this. Because coffee cake is timeless.  Just like 90s alternative rock and Bugles.

baked oatmeal

Dear People Driving on 95 North over a Holiday Weekend,

I get it.  You’ve spent a weekend down south and it’s time to head home.  So, you’ve loaded up the four-wheel drive sleigh (with the requisite “My Family” rear windshield sticker), packed in your 2.5 kids and the family dog, and turned on those schmancy, built-in DVD players to show Yo Gabba Gabba on repeat.

But, in the interest of humanity, can I make a few simple requests?  (You know, as a person sharing the road with you on said holiday weekends?)

Okay, here goes:

1) Pay attention to the road.  This one seems self-explanatory, but it never fails that as I drive down the road innocently listening to David Sedaris books on tape, I notice more than two or three cars swerve unexpectedly (I’m guessing someone doesn’t know how to drive in a straight line and sneeze at the same time).  Or drift into my lane (texting and driving may still be legal in Virginia, but you have babies on board–is sharing “Lolz, Kayla luvz go-go juice” really worth it?).  Or brake when NO ONE’S stopping.  Please drive predictably so that I can not die in a fiery blaze.  K?

2) Congestion does not equal Armageddon.  95 North is infamous for its congestion.  You’ll be driving along, wind in your hair, only to come upon three or four lanes of red tail lights.  This could be caused by an accident up ahead or tiny pieces of Styrofoam that have fallen on the road (oh, I wish I was kidding about that last one).  The best way to get through the congestion without making it worse is to STOP CHANGING LANES.  Seriously.  Stay in your lane.  Because the more often you change lanes, the more often people will be slowing down or slamming on their brakes to accommodate your whims.  Furthermore, if you MUST change lanes, do it gradually and purposefully with a blinker on the entire time.  Do not jerk your car to the left or right, forcing the car you’ve just cut off to slam on the brakes or, possibly, just slam into the back of your vehicle.  Because then you’ve just made traffic that. much. worse.  And everyone will hate you forever.

3) The shoulder is not a lane.  Situation Number 2 is under way.  We’re stuck in traffic with no relief in sight.  Please, oh, please don’t decide that you are the only person on the road entitled to making it home at a decent hour, thereby using the shoulder or exit/entrance lanes as your own, private autobahn.  Someone might need the shoulder to pull-over during an actual emergency.  Or maybe, just maybe, everyone else on the road has been idling JUST AS LONG AS YOU HAVE and in no way deserves to be bumped back in line because you are just too important to wait.

Bah.  Okay, rant over.

You know what soothes frazzled nerves after a long trip home?  Cozy Baked Oatmeal, courtesy of Ms. Shauna Server.  Warm, homey, lightly sweet and oh, so yummy, this stuff is really good.  And completely comforting as breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

My only suggestion is to add half a cup of brown sugar, instead of the prescribed 1/3 cup.  It might be my sweet tooth talking, but I think it gives this dish just the right amount of sweetness.  Which, goodness knows I needed after my nerve-racking trip.  Next time, I’m bringing this stuff on the open road.

banana nut bread

I feel like I’ve learned a lot from advice columnists.  So much, in fact, that I’m pretty sure I’ve earned some sort of online degree from the University of Self-Help and am now certified to solve the problems of men and women across the land.

So even though it took me years to fully realize my Doctorate of Psyche Exploring, I’ve decided to share the wealth and offer you some general bits of wisdom that will likely solve all of your problems and make you a new, unencumbered man or woman.

  1. If you are asked to be a bridesmaid in your friend’s wedding, and you have to take out a loan to pay for the dress, the bachelorette party, the plane tickets to the destination wedding, and the bride’s mortgage, just say no.  Otherwise you’ll be broke and hate your now ex-friend.
  2. If you meet a guy/girl who is instantly over-the-top charming, be wary: normal people don’t run around acting like James Bond or his female equivalent (Jamie?).  Mr./Ms. Cassanova is very likely hiding some very significant skeletons in the closet, like a secret family, an obsession with cross-dressing, or the fact that they are 38 and still living with their mother.
  3. If your significant other wears a black mask, is always sneaking around in the night, and is frequently caught pawing through your trash, you may be dating a professional burglar or a raccoon.

If you aren’t careful, these things could happen to you.

Another bit of advice: make this banana nut bread.  Sure, it’s way healthier than your average banana nut bread, but it’s also way more delicious.  I mean, it’s genuinely, significantly yummier than most banana nut breads I’ve come across (and believe me when I say that I’m a bit of a connoisseur).  Best of all, the recipe makes two loaves.  So eat one now, and wrap the other in saran and aluminum foil to eat later.  Doctor’s orders.