Grandma's Recipes #1 - Banana Cookies

Saturday, December 29, 2007

So this was the first recipe in out of grandma's recipe boxes. I had some bananas about to go funky, so I figured they would be perfect all mashed up into a cookie. The recipes seemed simple enough and I figured that with the spices and maybe some pecans or chocolate it would be a perfectly delectable cookies.

I did however discover something that would hinder me. Grandma's knowledge of the recipe. The card had no indication of the heat or time for baking. "Well... fuck." That being the first thought to enter my head, I figured to just wing it, as what other choice did I have? I decided on 350F (everything bakes at that temp. it seems) and would watch them like a hawk for the baking time.

I also split the batch into three mixtures - plain, with pecans, with chocolate. All three were fantastic, though I think I prefer them with the pecans for no other reason then I like the crunch they give. The cookies themselves were nice, soft, and a bit cakey. I expected them to taste like banana bread or muffins, but to my surprise they tasted nothing like them; just a delicious spiced cookie flavored with fresh banana.

All and all, delicious and a cookie recipe that's sure to be a steadfast favorite in this house.Grandma Capune's Banana Cookies
Makes about 30 cookies / 350F

What You'll Need...
1/2 cup of unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup of sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 cup of mashed bananas
1 teaspoon of baking soda
2 cups of flour
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of ground mace or nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves
(optional) 1 cup of pecans or walnuts or chocolate chips (or mix and match)

What You'll Do...
1) Preheat the oven to 350F. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and continue to beat until well mixed.

2) Mix the mashed bananas and baking soda in a bowl and let sit for 2 minutes to froth a bit, this will give the cookies their rise.

3) Mix the banana mixture into the butter mixture. Combine the flour, salt, and spices and mix into the butter and banana mixture until just combined.

4) Fold in the pecans. Drop into dollops onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake for 11-13 minutes or until nicely golden brown. Let cool on wire racks.

Olive Picking - An Excuse to Climb Trees Again

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Thank God, right before they all went funky and shriveled from the cold, Elise and I were able to grab the last of the olives. Apparently the bulk of the olives had been plucked by smarter more experienced olive pickers.

I love olives, adore them in fact. Their salty briney meat is just so delicious, so it makes sense that I've been wanting to attempt to cure them.

However, I didn't anticipate that picking them would be so much fun. All bundled up, fighting the freezing wind, we all started to climb trees in ways we hadn't since we were children. Scrambling up the trees, trying to balance ourselves, and reaching in every way and position to grab those olives that any yoga teacher would be proud. We did have to snap a branch or two off, but we saw it as a well needed pruning rather than destruction of public property and a local park.

Now they'll be covered with heavy layers of rock salt in an old pillow case so they can brine and cure. In a few weeks we'll have olives ready for the eating. Maybe I'll marinate some with some lemon peel and red pepper flakes in olive oil. Have any of you had any experience curing olives or marinating them or whatnot?

Port Royals (Chocolate Cupcakes with Cocoa Star Anise Ganache and Candied Grapefruit Zest)

Sunday, December 23, 2007

From the Cupcake Archives

I named this a Port Royal because 1) it sounded like a refined name for a very fashionable, delicate, and august cupcake; and 2) I have been watching Pirates of the Caribbean like I'll win a prize.

Honestly, this flavor combo was a total crapshoot. I had seen the combo before but never tried it, but was always fascinated by it. Chocolate, star anise, and grapefruit. Who knew? Seriously, who on earth thought of pairing this one together, cause I never would have. The flavors really do compliment each other, yet each one stands out as an individual. Unless you like star anise, you will not like this cupcake. If you appreciate it's slightly licorice flavor, and the tang of grapefruit then this is the cupcake for you. It was very popular with everyone who tried it, and would say that it's a real crowd pleaser due to its uniqueness. Really though, the flavors are very delicate, and I would almost call this cupcake elitist in its taste.

It does take a while to make it, mainly cause some of the prep work means requires you to start the night before, but ah well. I made these to thank a group of good people for meeting me at the Sacramento Food Bank to do some volunteer work (will post on that later), and had a few other people try them. They seem to be pretty successful, and Rob classified them as one of the best cupcakes yet.

This will be the last chocolate cupcake for a while. In Northern California, Winter has pretty much passed and Spring is making it's quick appearance before Summer comes in beating my door down. I yearn to work with lighter, brighter ingredients; rhubarb, limes, teas, and stone fruit call out to me. Also, chocolate can get pricey, so blah.

Chocolate Cupcakes
24 regular cupcakes / 350 degree oven

What You'll Need...
200 gram bar of Valrhona 61% cacao
3 sticks butter
2-1/4 cups sugar
8 eggs
1-1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder, unsweetened
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt

What You'll Do...
1) Chop chocolate and transfer into the bowl of a standing mixer, add the butter to the chocolate and place the bowl over a pan of simmering water (a double boiler works great too). Stir until chocolate melts and combined with the butter.

2) Remove from heat and stir in the sugar. Let the mixture cool for 10 minutes to thicken.

3) Place the bowl back into the mixer and beat at medium speed for 3 minutes.

4) Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing for 30 seconds before adding the next.

5) Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and a pinch of salt into the mixture and mix until just blended.

6) Scoop into cupcake papers and bake at 350F for 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Be sure to rotate the pan after the first 15 minutes to ensure even baking.

Candied Grapefruit Peel
Prep the night before.

What You'll Need...
2 Ruby Red grapefruits
1 tablespoon of salt
2 cups of sugar

What You'll Do...
1) Zest the peel into long strips with a citrus zester. (You can cut off the zest as well, then cut into strips, just be sure to scrape off all of the white pith as it's nasty bitter.) Add salt and peel to 4 cups of water and let stand overnight.

2) Drain and rinse. Place in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Heat to boiling and then drain. Repeat 3 times. This is to remove any bitterness from the peel.

3) In the sauce pan, combine the peel, sugar and 1/2 cup of water. Heat and stir until sugar dissolves. Continue to cook until peel is translucent, about 4-7 minutes. Drain any liquid and roll the peel in granulated sugar. Set on a plate without overlapping to prevent clumping, and allow to dry. Arrange on cupcakes.

Star Anise Chocolate Ganache
Prep the night before.

What You'll Need...
8 ounces chocolate (the higher the cacao percentage, the better)
1 cup heavy cream
5 star anise, broken up

What You'll Do...
1) Place the cream and anise in a bowl, and let sit overnight.

2) Break up the chocolate and place in a heat proof bowl.

3) Heat the cream and anise in a saucepan and heat at medium high until small bubble form on the rim. Pour through a mesh sieve to catch the anise as it pours over the chocolate. Let sit for one minute.

4) Mix together till smooth, uniform, and silky. Let cool a bit. Dip and swirl the cupcake domes into the ganache. Shake off the excess. Decorate with the grapefruit zest and let stand to dry.

Blondies (and also...)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Blondies are a simple fare, and for some reason usually called brownies without chocolate. But then that sort of eliminates the idea of it being a brownie, or any sort of connection at all. Blondies are an entity of their own. They have the texture of a brownie, but rely on dark brown sugar for their rich and heavy flavor. Often studded with butterscotch chips, walnuts, or chocolate chips they're a decadent treat thats easy to prepare with very minimal ingredients. I personally love them served with vanilla ice cream and a bit of maple syrup and a small glass of rum.

Also, finals are done, and all I can do now is wait and see. However, I have to confess something, there has been a bit of personal issue that has arisen in my life. It's a very difficult change I have to deal with which may affect my posting schedule. I won't drop off the face of the earth, but I will only be posting around twice a week now if I can. It's not permanent, I promise. Just have to take care of some things. =)

Serves 9 / 350 F oven

What You'll Need...
1/2 cup of butter, melted
1 cup of tightly packed dark brown sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 of baking soda
pinch of salt
1 cup of all-purpose
1/3 cup of chocolate chips (or walnuts or whathaveyou)

What You'll Do...
1) Preheat the oven to 350F. Prep an 8X8 pan with some butter and flour. Whisk together the melted butter and sugar in a bowl.

2) Add the egg and vanilla extract and whisk.

3) Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt, mix it all together. Add the chocolate chips or other mix-ins.

4) Pour into the pan and spread evenly. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool. Cut into squares and serve.

Naughty Mushrooms

Sunday, December 16, 2007

I'm not sure, but I think this mushroom is either being sexually explicit, naughty, or just trying to insult me. Maybe it was getting fresh with me. (Get it?! Fresh?!)

That or stress is finally causing my brain to tweak out. Regardless, it was stir-fried and delicious.

Pear & Cranberry Cupcakes with White Chocolate Ganache

Saturday, December 15, 2007

From the cupcake archives, Happy Holidays!
I swear to God, I'm becoming gayer with each cupcake I make. I am becoming a baking queen. A non-stop flour force, armed with butter and a cup o' sugar. And. It. Feels. So. Good.

After the last cupcake, the desire to continue with utilizing seasonal ingredients for something really flavorful acted as the impetus for this next cupcake. One of the big plusses of this recipe is that there is no butter in the actual cupcake which is great for my slowly growing second chin. This cupcake is high on the sugar though, but it's a cupcake so you should expect that.

The ganache had a hiccup in that the Eat Beast got outside, and after chasing him down for about 10 minutes - a black cat in an area with little lighting at night being an arduous task - the ganache separated and curdled. Lacking the supplies to make another batch, I whipped up a buttercream frosting instead and chopped up some white chocolate on it. Part of cooking is improvisation, right? Regardless, the buttercream was awesome. The white chocolate really brings this to another level, so whether you utilize it as ganache, chocolate shavings, or mix it into the cupcake, make sure it's in there.These came out tasting amazing. They border slightly between cupcake and muffin due to the density of the cake, but I say cupcake. The sweet and tart of the fruit, the creamy svelt of the chocolate, and hint of spice opens a deluge of fall imagery to mind. Assuming if I can get home for Thanksgiving, I plan to bring these to the table. If not, I suppose Rob and I can finish them off ourselves.

Special thanks to Glenna of Knitting to Stay Sane for the great pics and feedback!

Pear & Cranberry Cupcakes
Makes about 24 cupcakes

What You'll Need...
4 cups peeled, cored, chopped pears (about 8 pears)
2 cups sugar
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 ground cloves
1/4 ground ginger
4 egg whites
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup chopped dried cranberries

What You'll Do...
1) Chop the pears and combine them with the sugar and let them macerate for one hour.

2) Pheheat over to 350 degrees F (165 C).

3) Slightly beat egg whites just until a light foam appears. Comine them with the oil, pear mixture, and cranberries.

4) Sift the flour, salt, baking soda, and spices together. Stir into the pear mixture, and then place into cupcake papers about 3/4ths full.

5) Bake for 15 minutes undisturbed, then rotate the pan and cook for another 3-7 minutes, testing with a toothpick for doneness. Careful, as if the toothpick goes into a pear it will not come out clean, but cupcake may be done.

Buttercream Frosting
What You'll Need...
1 cup (2 sticks) of butter (soft, at room temp.)
3 cups of powdered sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 tablespoon of cream

What You'll Do...
1) Beat the sugar and butter together on low with an electric mixer until well combined. Then beat on medium for 3 minutes.

2) Add the vanilla and cream, and eat for another minute on medium.

Chocolate Ganache Frosting
Adapted from Cupcake Bakeshop

What You'll Need...
12 ounces of white chocolate (good quality!)
3/4 cup of whipping cream
1/4 cup of butter, room temp.
2-3 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

What You'll Do...
1) Chop chocolates and transfer into a heat proof bowl.

2) Heat cream until bubbles form around the edge of the pan, pour cream over the chocolate.

3) Let sit for 1 minute then stir until combined.

4) Add butter to the chocolate (make sure its soft and at room temp) and stir until combined.

5) Whisk together sugar, salt, and vanilla in another bowl until combined.

6) Pour the sugar mixture onto the chocolate mixture, then stir until combined and smooth.

7)Let sit at room temperature until thickened, about 2 hours.

8) Beat with an electric mixer until fluffy.

Note: Keep close watch as this can suddenly separate.

Carrot Berries

Friday, December 14, 2007

From the Archives, a favorite post of mine.
An actual conversation today at work with some guy who interjected himself into a conversation I was having on the phone...

Me: So I was so lucky my friend gave us some fresh produce this weekend!

Other Person: I love fresh produce! I picked some carrots from my carrot bush the other day.

Me: ...Carrots grow underground.

Other Person: Uh, no. Have you ever grown carrots before? *insert person looking at me like I'm an idiot*

Me: No.

Other Person: Well I have; they grow on a bush.

Me: No. They don't.

Other Person: *soaking with sarcasm* Then obviously my mom's carrots I got weren't carrots, I guess! They were just carrots that just grew on a bush like a berry somehow!

At this point I ended the conversation. There were just too many things to say. God damn it, my 7 year old nephew knows how a carrot grows.

I hate humanity sometimes.

Brownies - The Best Kind of Study Break

Monday, December 10, 2007

So after tooling around with a paper, I decided to make some brownies for the hell of it. I didn't really feel like melting chocolate so I searched for a recipe and decided to use Alton Brown's for no specific reason except it was the first I found in a Google search that used cocoa powder. I added some ultra tasty chandler walnuts - a walnut that has zero bitterness and is much sweeter than regular walnuts - for some crunch. A perfect way to beat the books, at least for a moment.

Cocoa Brownies (With Walnuts!)
Recipe adapted from Alton Brown

Soft butter, for greasing the pan
Flour, for dusting the buttered pan
4 large eggs
1 cup sugar, sifted
1 cup brown sugar, sifted
8 ounces melted butter
11/4 cups cocoa, sifted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon kosher saltPreheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Butter and flour an 8-inch square pan.
1 cup of crushed walnuts

In a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the eggs at medium speed until fluffy and light yellow. Add both sugars. Add remaining ingredients, and mix to combine.

Pour the batter into a greased and floured 8-inch square pan and bake for 45 minutes. Check for doneness with the tried-and-true toothpick method: a toothpick inserted into the center of the pan should come out clean. When it's done, remove to a rack to cool. Resist the temptation to cut into it until it's mostly cool.

I Have to be Judged, Hence a Pause

Saturday, December 8, 2007

It's finals time for grad students at CSUS which means lots of papers. For me, I'll be writing one discussing a lesson plan I developed for high-intermediate ESL writing students, and another discussing colonialist theory in Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart, and Conrad's Heart of Darkness.

On this note, there may be a slow down in posts this next week or so. I highly encourage you to check out the archives or look at some of the other Sac local bloggers or cupcake blogs listed in the side bar. I also will have a few recipes I developed up on Simply Recipes, so keep an eye out and check out their cookie archives as well.

Wish me luck! =)



Thursday, December 6, 2007

So I used to speak American Sign Language pretty damn well. Not fluently, but I could hold my own in a conversation. Sadly though, with no one to talk to, I find myself forgetting a lot of what I used to know, and when I find a chance to use it I have to stumble along and recall the signs.

Today was one of those cases. A deaf client, a child of about 10 or 11, came in with his translator and told me that he was hungry and wanted to get some food as he wasn't going to get home for dinner for quite some time. I told him we had some popcorn in the back and asked if that would be good. He agreed and I retrieved the popcorn. We chatted a bit more, he tolerating my broken signs and the translator giving me a helping hand (pun not intended) when I stuttered.

After I handed the popcorn to him, I told him "You can go to the back, and use the kitchen."

Or so I thought.

What I apparently said was, "Go to the back, and I'll kill you."

Yeah... kitchen and kill. Doubt I'll be forgetting those anytime soon.

Vosges Sampler IV - Couture Hot Chocolate

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Final Installment of the Vosges Sampler posts, this one being the hot chocolates. Hope you enjoy them as much as I have, though I doubt that's quite possible.

Bianca Couture (Australian lemon myrtle + lavender flowers + vanilla + white chocolate) - Sweet. Very sweet. And reminiscent of the milk at the bottom of a bowl of Fruity Pebbles cereal, that's not a bad thing, but I must admit it's very different from what I expected it to taste like. It's not just me either, I checked with a few others and they all thought the exact same thing. Lemon myrtle has that kind of sweet citrus taste (like lemongrass and kaffir lime) so I should have expected it. It's very flavorful, and not so much herbal but rather candy-like. I could only drink a half cup before I had my fill. Not something you can drink every night, but I bet would be tasty and light appertif of sorts after a heavy meal. I must admit though, I can see quite a few people not liking it.

Aztec Elixir Couture (Ancho & chipotle chillies + Ceylon cinnamon + Madagascar vanilla bean + cornmeal + dark chocolate) - The original hot cocoa. Spicy. Sweet. Dark. Bitter. You can taste why the Aztec Emperor would drink two cups of it before making love to his women. It leaves a pleasant heat behind, that doesn't overpower you but rather warms you up. A cup of this was perfect after a long day at work and class to help me wake up a bit.

La Parisienne Couture (Madagascar vanilla bean pieces + dark chocolate) - Simple and classic. Certainly better than powdered hot chocolate, but using whole bits of chocolate and real vanilla are key to any sweet dessert success involving chocolate. The taste of vanilla is slight and teases you, it appears just as you sip it and then as you tey to pin it down it vanishes. As such I took sip after sip for that delightful vanilla peek-a-boo. After the vanilla whisks away, a firm slightly bittersweet cocoa taste takes it's place. Not as bitter as the Aztec, but has a cloying sweetness to it. If you are a fan of sugary cocoa you might not enjoy this, but if you enjoy a dark and rich type of sweet chocolate, this is your kind of hot cocoa.

Overall, none of these are your average hot cocoa. You'll either like them or not care for them.

Cookie Swap!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Sometimes it's nice to gather up all of your foodie friends for a simple little event, and so I called together a bunch of the local food bloggers/writers for a simple little cookie swap as a way to ring in the holidays.

The idea is simple, everyone brings a batch of homemade cookies, about 2 dozen or so, and then after a nice exchange you fill up a container with a bit of each and go home with a huge variety! Gingerbread sammiches, macaroons, pepper crisps, and of course lots of chocolate was present.

We all took the time to swap stories, restaurant reviews, and recipes (and whores too, still not sure how we got to that topic). All the while we sipped down a few bottles of port and wine, large glasses of milk, and piping hot tea and coffee Babies were held and coddled, stories were told, and Eat Beast loved the attention he was getting.

Here's a nice little run down of the who's who and the who brought what:
Mike & Martha - Chocolate Cookies
Kate - Gingerbread Stars with Buttercream
Kim Bedwell - Chocolate Dipped Macaroons
Kim Rutledge & Anita - Chocolate Tipped Soft Tulles
Fethiye - Turkish Date Filled Cookies
Greg & Becky - Ginger Crisps
Ann - Chocolate Pepper Crisps
Andrea - Persimmon Cookies
Myself - Chocolate Peppermint Bark Cookies
Kristy - she brought her own sweet self, she's a human cookie worth a nibble

All and all, a fantastic time had by all. A chance to escape our busy schedules and just relax. The only downside was a few people couldn't make it, but sent their love none the less. Plus, I couldn't invite ALL of the Sac Food Bloggers because my tiny little apartment could barely hold those who were there. I highly encourage you to check out the Sacramento Food Bloggers list in the sidebar and check them out, you'll see some familiar faces and some brand new ones, all worth checking out!

I look forward to doing it next year, and hopefully at a much larger location. ;)

I hope your holidays are off to as jolly a start as ours are here in Sacramento!

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