A dear friend of mine used to live in Maui, and when ever I visited (which was never often enough) he would have just-baked chocolate banana bread to greet me upon arrival. Bananas are omnipresent wherever you go in Hawaii, and they get overly ripe fast in the humidity. Baking banana bread is a great use for the super sweet fruits. Fast forward to my own kitchen, where there now always seems to be about three bananas on the verge of turning brown. I hunted down an easy recipe for chocolate banana bread (on food.com) and modified it slightly. It’s pretty simple pantry fare: mix butter with sugar and vanilla, add in eggs, mashed bananas and milk, flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt. My secret twist? Replace the 1/2 cup of walnuts with chocolate chips. Bake at 350F for 50 minutes. The results are just as moist and lovely as the ones I remember from Maui. This recipe makes two small loaves. One for eating, one for sharing. Here’s the recipe — Chocolate Banana Bread — definitely one for the files! — Angela M.
P.S. Here’s another banana bread recipe from our archives that’s not chocolate, but also very yummy!
I love working from home, testing out recipes in my sanctuary of a kitchen — it’s just me & the food (and music, usually). The serenity in itself is inspiring, but occasionally, I miss the choreographed rhythm of working in a busy teaching kitchen. I learned a lot from the folks I worked with (mostly off-color jokes), so I thought I’d share some of the helpful hacks passed on to me from my well-seasoned (excuse the pun) ex-co-workers with our fabulous readers.
- Halving cherry tomatoes or grapes with ease: Instead of wasting time slicing every single one in half, use a small dessert plate to hold a handful of fruit, roll gently to level, and slice slowly with a serrated knife. It may take a little practice, but they should come out perfectly halved and ready for your recipe.
-Wrap your mixer: When whipping cream or egg whites in a stand mixer, avoid the messy splatters all over your kitchen by draping the top of your mixer with plastic wrap. Such an easy (and obvious) fix — I can’t believe I never thought of it myself!
-Upcycled knife guards: When transporting your kitchen knives or storing them in a drawer, protect the edge and your fingers by using a flattened empty paper towel roll. Just slide your blade in, secure with a binder clip, and you’re done. TP rolls are the perfect size for paring knives.
-Ice cube trays to the rescue: Use ice cube trays to freeze small squares of homemade stock, then pop them out and store in ziplock bags. You don’t have to thaw a whole quart of stock at a time, just pop out exactly what you need. I also freeze left over wine this way and I’ve got it ready for deglazing and reduction sauces.
Do you have any helpful hacks of your own to share? Leave them in the comments! — Megan B.
Imagine this: Youâ€™re planning a bridal shower brunch for 80 (yes, 80) guests. The invitations have been sent, the favors ordered, the menu set and venue booked. The only thing that remains in this large-scale production is deciding on and making the centerpieces for the tables. This is the dilemma facing a good friend right now, and so Iâ€™m looking to you, dear readers, for a solution. Flower arrangements can be expensive so weâ€™re searching for some creative ideas that we can execute ourselves on a manageable budget. Weâ€™ve been looking into big, scene-stealing flowers, like peonies and hydrangeas, which might be able to do the job of bigger bouquets with fewer stems. Iâ€™m also intrigued by the idea of Martha Stewartâ€™s paper flower tutorial as a craftier option but please, weigh in! Have any flower suggestions to share? Know of a great, executable centerpiece strategy you could pass along? Sound off in comments! — Sarah C.
In honor of Cinco de Mayo, I decided to whip up one of my “pantry favorites” — a healthy, quick, and tasty blast of Tex-Mex flavor in the form of a black bean burger. I base my recipe off of one I found two years ago in Gourmet magazine. Though the original was tasty, I’ve tweaked it a bit to make it “just right” by adding canned green chiles, for example. These black bean bad boys are best grilled hot, preferably on seasoned cast iron, and freeze beautifully for a super-fast, satisfying and flavorful meal for pennies. Just don’t forget the guacamole! — Megan B.
Click for the recipe, after the jump! (more…)
I was fortunate enough to have a mom who baked beautiful breads on a regular basis. Home made pumpernickel, pizza dough, sweet rolls, all kneaded by hand. The fragrance of proofing dough is locked into my memory and when smelled, makes me feel a level of comfort no fuzzy slippers can rival. My own efforts at bread baking? Well, lets just say they’ve been less successful. Maybe I haven’t been patient enough — or maybe I haven’t been trying the right technique.
Enter the “No knead” bread phenomenon, which has been all over the blogosphere and beyond since its debut in the New York Times in 2006. This recipe is crazy-simple, just flour, water, salt, and a scant amount of rapid rise yeast. The dough is mixed together and proofed for 14-20 hours, and then baked in a cast iron dutch oven, producing an amazing artisan bread with a nice crust and beautiful hole-filled interior. I topped mine with a brushing of olive oil, coarse sea salt and fresh rosemary. Warm, out of the oven with a big pat of butter: heaven.
above: No-knead bread one.
I immediately restocked the pantry to bake more bread. But a friend convinced me to branch out and try the Cooks Illustrated version, which adds beer and vinegar to the dough, and actually requires a super-brief knead before the second rise. So of course I had to compare the two recipes.
above: interior of the Cooks Illustrated version. Note the dramatic difference in “hole structure”
Click for my results, after the jump! (more…)