oatmeal breakfast bread

I finally admitted defeat this weekend. For the first time this year, I bought bread. I also bought pre-chopped vegetables, hummus, and pre-washed lettuce. Why do I force myself to do all these things from scratch? Preparing my snacks and lunches for the work week has been seriously cutting into my favorite Sunday activity (sitting outside with a margarita and a book, of course). The only things I’m still making from scratch are hard-boiled eggs and muffins for Dave.

I’m lucky that so far the quick bread chapter in the Tuesdays with Dorie cookbook has been seriously overlooked, so I can double task lunch prep and TWD. (The celebration cake chapter is DONE, which, for me, is cause for celebration.) It also helps that muffins are so easy and bake quickly.

These are a perfect example of why I can’t bring myself to buy muffins. These aren’t perfectly healthy, but they’re certainly better for you than anything storebought – not to mention how sweet and tender and soft they are as well. I’m definitely willing to sacrifice a bit of Sunday margarita time to make muffins like this.

Natalie chose this recipe, and she has it posted on her site. I used raisins for the dried fruit, but these were so perfectly spiced for fall that I wish I’d used dried apples instead.

One year ago: Applesauce Spice Bars
Two years ago: Granola Grabbers

banana peanut butter muffins

Conversely, I think I’d like bananas more if they weren’t so cheap, convenient, and healthy. It’s just that I eat so many bananas. For years, every weekday, a banana. I had to start mixing the bananas with other things to make them palatable. In the spring, strawberries make a wonderful accompaniment. And if I want something more filling, peanut butter works perfectly. Now I eat peanut butter with my banana everyday, and I’m hoping that it’s a tasty enough combination that I don’t get sick of it anytime soon.

If bananas are better with peanut butter, it stands to reason that banana bread is better with peanut butter too, right? Or banana muffins, as the case may be. And it turns out, yes, peanut butter is a wonderful addition, and so is oatmeal, to make banana muffins more fun and interesting. It’s just too bad that muffins don’t work as a healthy replacement to my normal daily banana.

One year ago: Farmer’s Market Salad with Spiced Goat Cheese Rounds
Two years ago: Tuscan-Style Couscous Salad

Printer Friendly Recipe
Peanut Butter Banana Oatmeal Muffins (from Baking Bites via Annie’s Eats)

I used oil instead of applesauce, because I always have oil around and never have applesauce around.

1½ cups (7.2 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons applesauce
¾ cup (5.25 ounces) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup mashed banana (about 3 bananas)
6 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
1 cup low-fat buttermilk

1. Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line 18 muffin cups with paper liners.

2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the applesauce, brown sugar, eggs, banana, peanut butter and buttermilk until smooth. Pour the dry ingredients into the bowl with the wet ingredients and mix just until incorporated and fully blended.

3. Divide the batter between the prepared muffin cups. Bake 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

gingered carrot cookies

I was complaining to my sister about these cookies, all, wwahhh! I don’t like carrot desserts! when she told me that her husband had made carrot-raisins-nut-coconut muffins that day, and her 4-year-old refused to eat them. “I don’t like the carrot muffins”, he claimed.

Great, I have the tastes of a 4-year-old.

On the other hand, cookies than contain vegetables are clearly acceptable for breakfast and thus the perfect detour from my no-dessert-before-beach-trip rule. And judging by how many of these I ate, I do not, in fact, have the tastes of a four-year-old. I’m not sold on carrot cake, but carrot cookies, apparently, I can do.

Natalia chose these for Tuesdays with Dorie, and she has the recipe posted.

One year ago: Banana Bundt Cake
Two years ago: Black and White Banana Loaf

chockablock cookies

Hey, didn’t Tuesdays with Dorie already make these, a chocolate version, a long time ago? And didn’t I already lodge a complaint against cookies that are more add-in than dough? Seriously, sometimes the chocolate chips in chocolate chip cookies get in my way.

And wait, didn’t I already decide that, hey, add-ins maybe aren’t such a bad thing because these are some darn good cookies.

And you know what else about these cookies? There’s only eight tablespoons of butter/shortening in the whole batch! That’s about half as much as most cookies. Which makes it all the harder not to justify having just one more.

Mary chose these and she has the recipe posted. I quadrupled, yes, that’s right, quadrupled the salt. Seemed perfect to me.

One year ago: Chocolate Cream Tart
Two years ago: Fluted Polenta and Ricotta Cake

swedish visiting cake

This cake fit so seamlessly into my weekend that I hardly know what to say about it. I mixed it up and baked it early Friday evening, and I grabbed a bite here and another there throughout the weekend until there was nothing left.

With the ingredients stirred by hand, and the light lemony almond flavor, it was easy to bake and just as easy to eat.

Nancy chose this for Tuesdays with Dorie, and she has the recipe posted. I doubled the salt (of course).

One year ago: Chocolate Ameretti Torte
Two years ago: Marshmallows

mocha walnut marbled bundt cake

Somehow with all of my random kitchen junk, I didn’t have a full-size bundt pan for the longest time, but I finally got one recently. This was its first use, and I was so excited about my perfectly browned, beautifully scalloped, marbled bundt cake. Too bad I didn’t take any pictures of it before this:

Fortunately, enough of the cake was intact to cut some slices, not that I have any problems eating cake bits. And the cake bits, they were good – rich and dense with contrasting vanilla and chocolate bites.

However, one thing I’ve learned is that if dessert isn’t divided into neat portions, it’s all too easy to grab a bite here and another there until I’ve eaten far more than just one serving.

So I took that ziploc bag full of broken cake, crushed it up with the other two cakes I’d dropped at the same time, added some cream cheese frosting, and dipped everything in chocolate. Yes, I added frosting and chocolate in order to eat less dessert. So far it hasn’t worked.

Erin chose this cake for Tuesdays with Dorie, and she has the recipe posted.

One year ago: Banana Cream Pie
Two years ago: Lemon Cream Tart

soft chocolate and berry tart

Chocolate and raspberry was my favorite flavor combination for a long time. It’s still up there for sure, but I’ve tried so many desserts recently that I’ve found all kinds of other great pairs – orange and vanilla, peaches and amaretto, cream cheese and anything. There’s no need to play favorites, but I was excited about making a chocolate and raspberry tart.

Then I used strawberries instead. Sometimes baking for Tuesdays with Dorie happens to be one item on a long (but manageable!) To Do list, and those times, I make do – and I had strawberries in the freezer. Even though Dorie specifically recommends against using strawberries because they’re too juicy, I went ahead with what I had. I defrosted a few, diced them small, sprinkled them with sugar, and set them aside to give off some liquid, which I drained before using the berries in the recipe. (I had a brief thought of “what should I do with the liquid?” Then – wait a minute! That’s sugary strawberry juice! And I drank it.)

I’d call it a success! My tart was a bit sloppy when I cut into it, but it was still crisp tart crust, rich chocolate, and sweet berries. No one complained about combining chocolate and strawberries around here, that’s for sure.  Rachelle has the original recipe posted on her site.

One year ago: Lemon Cup Custards

thumbprints for us big guys

I don’t how I managed to go this long without complaining about the grocery store situation in my new little town. There are three grocery stores here – a Walmart, a food thrift store, and a regular store. I know some Walmarts have a good selection, but this one certainly does not. I had high hopes for the regular grocery store at first, but it seems that the longer I shop there, the more frustrated I get.

Today was the last straw. Brisket – I have to buy the whole brisket. What am I going to do with 15 pounds of brisket?! (I know, I’m going to freeze most of it. Still.)

My days of rack of lamb are over. Wheat berries? Fresh fish? Currants? Loose-leaf tea? Please. I couldn’t even find hazelnuts.

Fortunately, these cookies are just as delicious with walnuts instead of hazelnuts. And I guess that’s what it all comes down to – adapting to my new situation and making the best of it. And being grateful for all of the great salsa and green chile that’s available to me now.

Mike from Ugly Food Dude chose these cookies for Tuesdays with Dorie. I added 1 teaspoon of salt to the dough, and with that small change, I’d say that these are one of my favorite recipes from Dorie’s book. They were so soft and tender with wonderful contrasting nut and tart jam flavors.  I loved them.

One year ago: Chocolate Whiskey Cake (another TWD favorite!)

bacon-wrapped goat-cheese-and-almond-stuffed dates

Stuffed dates are part of one my favorite days recently – one of those that, for whatever reason, just ended up being particularly awesome. Some great friends visited us in Philadelphia shortly before we moved. After walking around the famous historical sites and before seeing one of my favorite musicians play; before walking up the famous steps to the art museum and much before eating cheesesteaks at 2am, we ate dinner at Alma de Cuba.

While we all loved our entrees, our drinks, and the ceviche, the star of the show was the bacon-wrapped almond-stuffed dates. Is transcendent too over-the-top a description? It seems appropriate for something that caused each of us to close our eyes and exclaim with every bite.

I had kind of assumed that my bacon-wrapped almond-stuffed date days were behind me when we moved from Philadelphia. I don’t know why it never occurred to me that I could make them myself. I certainly never thought it would be so easy.

And just as good! I mean, it’s missing the friends-visiting, concert-going, downtown-exploring mystique, but it retains other important things – salty bacon, sweet dates, tangy goat cheese, crunchy almonds. And now it isn’t a once in a lifetime treat, like those standout days are.

One year ago: Honey Yogurt Dip
Two years ago: Salmon Cakes with Hashed Brussels Sprouts and Flaky Biscuits

Printer Friendly Recipe
Bacon-Wrapped Goat-Cheese-and-Almond-Stuffed Dates (rewritten from Beantown Baker)

Makes 32 appetizers

32 dates, pitted
4 ounces goat cheese
32 almonds (about ⅓ cup)
16 slices (about 1 pound) bacon, halved lengthwise

1. With a paring knife, cut through one long edge of each date; unfold the dates to open them up. Use your fingers to stuff both sides of the date with goat cheese. Push an almond into the goat cheese; close up the dates. Wrap each stuffed date with a piece of bacon and secure with a toothpick or skewer.

2. If you’re broiling the dates, put them on a rimmed baking sheet. Grill the dates over medium-hot coals or broil them 5 inches from the heating unit until the bacon is cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Serve immediately or at room temperature.

pecan pie

Conversations from this Christmas:

  • Me: I was thinking we could all go to the botanical garden’s light show like we did a couple years ago.
  • My sister: Oh yeah, we did that last year too, so it’s a new tradition.

  • 4-year old, after opening a present: A truck! Vroom vroom! Can I open another present now?
  • His mom: No, the tradition is that we all take turns, so you need to wait until Aunt Bridget and Grandma each open a present; then it will be your turn again.

  • My brother: Are we really going to go look at the luminarias across town? It’s already after 10pm, and it’s 15 degrees out.
  • The rest of us: Of course we are! It’s tradition!

We take tradition seriously in my family, and that extends to the holiday meal. It’s turkey and fixings, and variations are not appreciated. Complaints will be lodged if the cranberry sauce has too much orange zest, the stuffing has too much sausage, or, worst of all, pumpkin cheesecake replaces the pie.

So I waffled on what to do with Dorie’s pecan pie recipe – I liked the idea of adding bitter ingredients like chocolate and espresso to cut the sweetness of regular pecan pie, but I didn’t want to make something so different that my mom would have to make her standard pecan pie recipe as soon as I went home to satisfy her craving. I ended up reducing the chocolate from 3 to 2 ounces, skipping the cinnamon because I didn’t really want it, and skipping the espresso because I didn’t have any available.

And it was great! I’ve tried a number of pecan pie recipes, and this is the only one that I’ve really enjoyed. The small amount of chocolate was a nice treat, but mostly it was the brown sugar and the balance of corn syrup to pecans that made this pie so good. In fact, everyone liked it – even those of us who don’t traditionally even eat the pecan pie.

Beth chose this pie for Tuesdays with Dorie, and she has the recipe posted.

One year ago: Tall and Creamy Cheesecake