Strawberry Banana Bread

The bounty of berries and stone fruits available right now makes this household very happy, especially the two-year-old fruit fiend. As much as I love apples and pears in the fall, there’s something very gratifying about filling up our shopping cart in the summertime with 6-8 different varieties of fruit. This week we went home with plums, apriums (which look like apricots, but are sweeter and juicer thanks to the plum in them!), white peaches, nectarines, blueberries, and strawberries.

We’re definitely embracing the strawberries these days, as their window for consumption is shorter than that of other summer fruits. The strawberries that we buy from our grocery store come from just up the coast at Swanton Berry Farm and are so sweet and irresistible.

Hey! Who stole my garnish? 🙂

It’s time for another “Blogger’s Choice” recipe swap, hosted by A Taste of Home Cooking. I was assigned Carrie’s Sweet Life, from which to choose a recipe to make and then share with you. Carrie is the mom of two adorable little girls, and I love reading about all of the delicious things that come out of her kitchen. When I saw her recent post about Strawberry Banana Bread, I knew that it would be the perfect use for some of our strawberries.

I made a few changes, but nothing major. I used butter in place of the olive oil (best choice health-wise? No, but my favorite banana bread recipe calls for butter and I’m addicted to the flavor that it produces). Instead of mashing the strawberries, I chopped them up so that you get more intense bursts of strawberry flavor in every bite. I also swapped out 1/2 a cup of the all purpose flour for whole wheat flour, added a bit more salt, and reduced the amount of orange zest by 1 tsp. to really highlight the strawberry/banana flavors. Oh, and I mixed everything by hand instead of using a mixer. My changes are reflected below. Thanks, Carrie, for a fun, seasonal twist on banana bread. Hooray for strawberry season!

Strawberry Banana Bread

(Slightly adapted from Carrie’s Sweet Life; originally from Cook with Sara)

1/2 cup butter (8 TBS.), softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup fresh strawberries, chopped
3/4 cup mashed banana (I used 2 bananas)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. orange zest
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg

  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease a loaf pan and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, cream the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the strawberries, banana, vanilla, and orange zest and stir until well-combined. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, whole wheat flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Gradually add the flour mixture to the creamed butter mixture, mixing just until flour disappears.
  • Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean (mine took about 1 hour and 10 minutes). Cool on a wire rack, then remove from pan, slice, and enjoy. I especially enjoyed it the next morning, toasted up in the toaster oven with a little butter on top.

Olive Oil Pumpkin Bread

Coming from someone whose favorite season is fall and whose birthday falls on Thanksgiving once in a while, it might sound surprising that I am not a huge fan of pumpkin pie. Instead, you’ll find me gravitating towards the pecan or chocolate cream pie on our dessert table. I do love pumpkin; I guess I’m just particular about texture and the way in which it’s prepared. One of my favorite ways to enjoy it this time of year is simply roasted in the oven with butter, cinnamon, and cardamom (like these little roasted pumpkins). And as far as pumpkin desserts go, I adore pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin bread pudding, and pumpkin bread/muffins.

There are so many recipes out there for pumpkin bread that a quick google search left me feeling overwhelmed. I decided to flip through my neglected fall issue of Fine Cooking and was drawn to this pumpkin bread recipe because it uses olive oil instead of butter (which not only provides antioxidants, but justifies slathering each slice with butter before eating), honey is added for sweetness, and the top of the loaf is studded with pumpkin seeds. It sounded perfect, and since Levi was in the middle of one of his 3-hour marathon naps (which are few and far between), I decided to jump on the opportunity to bake!

The result was a pumpkin bread with a hint of nutty flavor and subtle kiss of honey, which really comes out the next day when you toast a slice in the toaster oven. The pumpkin seeds also add the perfect crunch. I found myself saving the top of my bread slice for last because of those tasty little seeds. The recipe says they’re optional, but I’d recommend adding them because it’s one of the things that sets this pumpkin bread apart from the rest.

Olive Oil Pumpkin Bread

(From the Oct/Nov 2011 issue of Fine Cooking; by Ellie Krieger)

cooking spray (or butter for greasing)
3-1/4 oz. (3/4 cup) whole wheat flour
3 oz. (2/3 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. table salt
2 large eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin purée
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup honey
2 TBS. unsalted pumpkin seeds (also called pepitas)

  • Preheat oven to 350°F and position rack to the center of oven. Spray a 9×5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray (or grease with butter, as I did).
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together both flours, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, pumpkin, sugar, oil, and honey until well combined.
  • Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and stir with a large spoon just until evenly incorporated.
  • Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to settle the batter. Sprinkle the top with the pumpkin seeds, pressing them down lightly. Bake until the top is browned and a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes (mine took a little longer – about 1 hour – but it was a rainy day so perhaps the humidity had something to do ith it? Who knows). If the bread begins to brown too much before it’s fully baked, lay a piece of aluminum foil on top.
  • Cool in the pan for 15 minutes and then transfer the bread to a rack to cool completely before slicing. Serve with butter, because you deserve it 🙂

Skillet Cornbread

It took us six years of marriage to acquire our first cast iron skillet. I’m not sure of the reason behind this huge oversight, but we can finally put it behind us. When we brought our seasoned skillet home, the first thing I wanted to make in it was my mom’s cornbread. I say “my mom’s” because it’s the recipe she always made when I was growing up, but originally it’s from Joy of Cooking. My brother and I always looked forward to eating this cornbread with dinner (usually chili or some kind of soup) because of the honey bear that always made its way onto the table. The cornbread itself isn’t too sweet, and it has a nice tang from the buttermilk, so it’s the perfect match for honey! I always cut my slice of cornbread in half, providing more surface area for butter and honey, of course!

Now that pumpkins are appearing on doorsteps, pumpkin ales are on store shelves, and chili is making a frequent appearance on dinner tables,  it’s safe to say that fall has come, making this the perfect time to share this cornbread recipe with you. It will go wonderfully with your family’s favorite chili recipe. Just don’t forget the honey bear.

Skillet Cornbread

(From Joy of Cooking)

1 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1-2 TBS. sugar (I usually add a second tablespoon because Dustin loves a somewhat sweeter cornbread)
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup cornmeal (I use medium grind)
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, plain yogurt, or sour cream (or in a pinch, a combination of any of those things)
2 eggs
4 TBS. butter, melted (you can also use olive oil, which results in a different taste and slightly different texture, but also good!)

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease a cast iron skillet (the best option for a yummy, crispy crust, but you can also use a glass baking pan).
  • Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, sugar, salt, and cornmeal.
  • Beat together the buttermilk (or yogurt or sour cream), eggs, and melted butter.
  • Place your greased skillet or baking pan into the oven to preheat while you mix the batter.
  • Stir the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients with a few swift strokes (aka don’t mix it to death).
  • Pour the batter into the preheated greased pan. Bake about 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cornbread comes out clean and the top is started to turn golden. Serve slices of cornbread with butter and honey, alongside your favorite soup or chili!

Currant Scones

When we vacationed in Sweden with my family two summers ago, we embraced our Swedish roots and enjoyed taking part in fika – the afternoon coffee break – when Swedes meet their friends, coworkers, or family at a cafe to indulge in a beverage and a baked good like a cookie or cinnamon roll before heading back to normal life. That’s a custom I could get used to!

I made these scones on a Saturday afternoon because I was craving a sweet baked good and was in need of a little fika myself. I also wanted to make something ahead of time that I could enjoy the following morning for breakfast when I knew I’d be too busy to bake. What a treat it was to bite into a warm, flaky scone and take that first sip of strong coffee on a Sunday morning when Levi had woken up at 5 am. It’s the little things in life!

I had never made scones before, but was pleased with the ease in which these came together! This is the recipe I was given for this week’s breakfast-themed recipe swap (to see more delicious recipes from previous recipe swaps, go here!). The original recipe called for raisins, but I decided to use the currants that I had on hand from making fruit & nut granola. Although the scones were a tad bit sweet for my taste (next time I might use 1/2 the sugar so that the tang from the sour cream can come through more), the texture was perfect, with little bursts of currant in every bite. When I was cutting the dough into wedges, I ended up with 8 larger scones, rather than the 12 the recipe called for, so they baked for about 10 minutes longer than indicated. But that’s okay. It was worth the wait to bite into a big scone – a delicious and much-needed indulgence!

This is a great basic recipe that I look forward to trying again with different fruits. I hope you enjoy them too, in the morning or in the afternoon. Go ahead. Take a break like the Swedes. You deserve it.

Currant Scones

(From Lisa, recipe swap participant)

1 cup sour cream
1 tsp. baking soda
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg, beaten
1 cup currants (or raisins)

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a large baking sheet (or line with parchment paper).
  • In a small bowl, blend the sour cream and baking soda. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cream of tartar, and salt. Cut in the butter. Add the sour cream mixture and the egg and mix just until moistened. Gently mix in the currants.
  • Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly. Roll or pat dough into a 3/4 inch round. Cut into 12 wedges and place them 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet.
  • Bake 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown.

Yellow Cupcakes with Chocolate-Sour Cream Frosting

I blinked and my newborn became a 1-year-old. He walks, he points at things, he babbles, and he eats everything with gusto, especially cake, as we now know. I picked my favorite cake/frosting combination for Levi’s birthday cupcakes – yellow cake with chocolate, because I know he’s not picky and I’d be the one licking the beaters. I used the best birthday cake recipe on Smitten Kitchen – yellow cake with chocolate sour cream frosting – but made cupcakes instead of a layer cake and topped them with festive sprinkles. The recipe made 36 cupcakes, and I even had enough batter to make a little personal cake for Levi to eat on his actual birthday. So yes, we were eating cupcakes for days, and they were delicious. This recipe was exactly what I had hoped it would be. The cake was nice and moist with a little tang from buttermilk, and the frosting was nice and chocolate-y, but not too sweet. I decided to omit the espresso powder this time, since Levi was going to be eating a good amount of frosting, but I can definitely see how adding it would have brought out the flavor of the chocolate even more, and next time I will!

At the end of a 1st birthday party, there’s that rite of passage when you stick a slice of cake or a cupcake in front of the birthday child and stand around and stare at them to see what they’ll do. At first they hesitate; they might curiously poke at it, as Levi did, but soon they discover that what has been placed in front of them is actually edible. After a while it gets pretty messy, and the only people who think that the baby with frosting all over his face is cute is the parents. Yep, I was that proud mom. I’m also proud to share these cupcakes with you (which are actually the first I’ve ever made from scratch!) They were made and decorated with love for our little boy. Happy Birthday, Levi! And many more.

Yellow Cupcakes with Chocolate Sour-Cream Frosting

(From Smitten Kitchen)

For the Cupcakes:

4 cups plus 2 TBS. cake flour (not self-rising)
2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 cups buttermilk, well-shaken

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with the festive cupcake liners of your choice.
  • Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
  • In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in vanilla. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition.
  • At low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined (it’s ok if the mixture looks curdled). Add the flour mixture in three batches, mixing until each addition is just incorporated.
  • Spoon the batter into the muffin tins so that they are 2/3 full. Bake for 17-20 minutes or until the tops are golden and a toothpick entered into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then carefully remove from the muffin tins, using a knife to loosen them if some of the cake is sticking to the edges of the muffin cups. When completely cool, frost cupcakes (recipe below) and decorate with sprinkles!

For the Chocolate-Sour Cream Frosting (makes 5 cups):

15 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 1/4 cups sour cream, at room temperature
1/4 to 1/2 cup light corn syrup
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract

  • Place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stirring until it melts. Remove from heat and allow to cool until tepid. You want your chocolate and your sour cream to be around the same temperature so that the chocolate doesn’t seize when you add the sour cream.
  • Whisk together the sour cream, 1/4 cup of the corn syrup and vanilla extract until combined. Add the tepid chocolate slowly, whisking quickly until the frosting mixture is uniform. Taste for sweetness, and if needed, add additional corn syrup in 1 TBS. increments until desired level of sweetness is achieved.
  • Let cool in the refrigerator until the frosting is a spreadable consistency. This took only 10 minutes for us. If it becomes too hard, leave out at room temperature until it softens again.

The Birthday Boy!

Mrs. O’Callaghan’s Soda Bread

Saint Patrick, you braved captivity in Ireland and later returned to spread Christianity throughout the land. Rather than eradicating the native customs and beliefs, you incorporated them into your teachings so that the Christian message was more easily understood by the people; a respectable model for Christian missions today (says the Religious Studies major in me). Today we remember the day of your death by drinking Stout and loading up on carbs. I hope you’re not offended. I hope someday people remember me by eating and drinking!

I love a good Irish soda bread on Saint Patrick’s Day. I adore its crumbly texture, crusty outside, and slightly sweet, brown interior, topped with generous amounts of butter. I eat way too much, and it’s so, so good.

This is the second year we’ve eaten this particular Irish soda bread. Last year my Mom made it as part of a corned beef & cabbage dinner. This year we made it to accompany a bacon-wrapped stout & cheddar meatloaf. It’s from an article in Bon Appetit titled A Slice of Ireland, which includes captivating pictures of Ireland’s stunning, verdant countryside (where apparently there are as many versions of soda bread as there are cooks), and the account of one man’s quest for the perfect one. Mrs. O’Callaghan’s recipe is treasured for its simplicity (no add-ins like nuts or seeds) and authenticity.

The only changes I made were halving the recipe, using teff flour instead of whole wheat flour (we had some leftover from our teff galette), using a food processor to make the dough, and baking the soda bread on parchment paper, instead of spraying a baking sheet with nonstick vegetable oil spray. We hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we did!

Mrs. O’Callaghan’s Soda Bread

(Slightly adapted from the March 2010 issue of Bon Appetit)

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups teff flour (or whole wheat flour)
1/4 cup (packed) brown sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 of a stick chilled butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 cup buttermilk

  • Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking pan with parchment paper. In a food processor, combine both flours, the sugar, and the baking soda. Pulse until combined. Add the butter and continue pulsing until it resembles little peas. Add the buttermilk and pulse until the dough just comes together (or as the original recipe says “shaggy dough forms”).
  • Turn out dough on a lightly floured surface, kneading until it comes together, about 10 turns.
  • Form dough into a 7-inch round that is 1 inch high. Place dough on prepared baking sheet. Cut a large X, 1/2 inch deep, in top of dough, almost all the way to the edges of the round.
  • Bake in the center of the oven until it is deep brown and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped. A bamboo skewer, when placed into the center of the bread, should come out clean, about 40 minutes. Let cool, slice, and serve with butter!

(And a special thanks to my Great-Aunt Lois – one of our faithful readers – who made the beautiful potholders in these pictures!)

Pecan-Maple Sticky Rolls

This morning I woke up to a gusting wind that was blowing the redwood trees back and forth, and sending our neighbor’s leaves all over our backyard. But my cousin and I were perfectly warm inside, drinking coffee and baking up these irresistible sticky rolls to start our day. A simple no-yeast dough and gooey maple syrup topping makes it easy to bring bakery-taste to your own kitchen. We ate one and a half each for breakfast, along with flutes of sparkling grape & blood orange juice (in lieu of mimosas), and I froze the rest to make a morning in the near future extra special.

Pecan-Maple Sticky Rolls

(From the September 2009 Food & Wine)

3/4 cup whole pecans
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 sticks salted butter—1 stick cubed and chilled, 4 tablespoons melted
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon cinnamon
6 tablespoons pure maple syrup

  • Preheat the oven to 425°. Spread the pecans in a pie plate and toast for about 6 minutes, until fragrant; let cool slightly (alternatively, we toasted them in a skillet, stirring occasionally over medium-low heat).
  • Meanwhile, grease a 12-cup muffin tin with butter (or cooking spray).
  • In a food processor, pulse the flour with 2 tablespoons of the sugar, the baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  • Add the cubed butter and pulse until it is the size of small peas. Add the buttermilk and pulse a few times, just until a soft dough forms.
  • Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead 3 times. Pat or roll the dough into an 8-by-12-inch rectangle. Brush with 2 tablespoons of the melted butter.
  • In a small bowl, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar with the cinnamon and sprinkle all over the dough. Beginning at a long side, roll the dough into a tight cylinder and pinch the seam closed. Cut the dough into 12 slices.
  • Divide the maple syrup and the remaining 2 tablespoons of melted butter among the cups. Scatter the pecans in the cups and top with the dough pinwheels.

  • Bake for about 18 minutes, until golden; place a baking sheet below to catch any drips.
  • Invert a rack (we used a cookie sheet) over the rolls and invert them onto the rack. Replace any pecans that get stuck in the cups and let cool for 5 minutes before serving. Makes 12 rolls.


Chocolate Chip & Candied Ginger Muffins

Melty chocolate chips and spicy little bursts of candied ginger are a match made in muffin heaven, unless you’re Dustin (who isn’t the biggest ginger fan). Oh well. More for me. Today’s slightly overcast weather inspired me to take on a new baking project, and I had chocolate on the brain, as well as some candied ginger to use up. Trader Joe’s sells conveniently resealable bags of crystalized candied ginger that’s coated in sugar. In my opinion it’s a little too strong to eat by itself, but when finely chopped, it worked perfectly in this recipe. Try these muffins for a quick chocolate fix in the morning (or a decadent snack), and make sure you eat them while they’re still warm so the chocolate chips are still gooey. I found the recipe on Baking Bites, and made only a couple changes (which are marked with asterisks below).

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup plus 2 TBS sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger*
1 cup oats**
6 TBS butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg
3/4 cup buttermilk***
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips, dark or semisweet
3/4 cup candied ginger, finely chopped

* I didn’t have any ground ginger, so I used ground nutmeg
** not in the original recipe,  but I wanted to throw some in there!
*** I also didn’t have any buttermilk, so I used plain yogurt

  • Preheat oven to 375. Line a muffin pan with paper liners (I simply buttered my silicone muffin pan).
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ground nutmeg, and oats.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together melted butter, egg, yogurt, milk and vanilla extract until smooth. Pour into dry ingredients and stir just until no streaks of flour remain. Stir in chocolate chips and candied ginger.
  • Divide batter into prepared muffin pan, overfilling each muffin cup so that the batter slightly rises above the top of the pan.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until muffins are lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  • Cool on a wire rack. Serve slightly warm. Makes 12 muffins.

Banana-Blueberry-Oat Muffins

These muffins pretty much sum up everything I like in a muffin: The taste of banana bread, the tangy burst of seasonal blueberries in every bite, and the hearty texture (and health-benefits) of oatmeal. I came across this recipe on one of my favorite blogs – Vintage Victuals. I made only a few changes to her recipe: I didn’t have any wheat flour so I used regular all purpose flour (so they’re not quite as healthy as she originally intended), I didn’t have any apple sauce on hand so I used the same measurement of vegetable oil, and instead of buttermilk or sour cream I used the plain yogurt that was in the fridge. I still think they turned out great! Tomorrow I think one of these muffins will fuel me before rock climbing at the gym. Happy Weekend, everyone!

Banana-Blueberry-Oat Muffins
(From Vintage Victuals)

1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup oats, rolled or quick
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (I used 2 bananas)
1 cup fresh blueberries

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a muffin pan or line with baking cups.
  • In a large bowl combine the flour, oats, sugars, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Whisk until completely combined.
  • In a small bowl, beat together eggs, oil, yogurt, and bananas. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until almost completely moistened. Add blueberries and continue stirring just until completely moistened, being careful not to over-mix. Batter should be lumpy.
  • Fill muffin cups about 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 17-20 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. This recipe yielded 16 small-ish muffins for me, but I could have just as easily made 12 larger muffins.

I ate one (ok, fine … two) right away (almost burned my mouth, but I was impatient and they smelled so good), stored some in an airtight container (which will keep for a few days), and froze the rest for a future breakfast or snack.

Blueberry Streusel Muffins

What makes blueberry muffins even better? A crumbly cinnamon & sugar topping! I made these several times in Japan for my students. In true Japanese fashion, the students would always request that the muffins be divided into quarters. Then they would eat one quarter at a time (until they had eaten a whole muffin) with a small dessert fork. Picking up a whole muffin and biting into it must be an American thing! Anyway, cultural differences aside, this is a very easy and delicious muffin recipe that’s even better made with fresh blueberries. Try this crumb topping on any muffin!

Blueberry Streusel Muffins
(From Annie’s Eats via

1 ½ cups flour
3/4 cups sugar

1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 egg

1/3 cup milk

1 cup blueberries (or more)

For streusel topping:

1/4 cup sugar
2 TBS. and 2 tsp. flour

2 TBS. cold butter, cubed

3/4 tsp. cinnamon

  • Preheat the oven to 400°. Grease or line 8 muffin wells with muffin liners.
  • In a bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Place vegetable oil into a 1 cup measuring cup; add the egg and enough milk to fill the cup. Mix this with flour mixture.
  • Fold in blueberries. Pour into lined muffin cups; fill to the top.
  • Make streusel topping by combining the listed ingredients and mix well with a fork until crumbly. Sprinkle over tops of muffins.
  • Bake at 400° for 20-25 minutes. Makes 8 large muffins.

Chocolate Chunk – Hazelnut Blondies

I was in search of a dessert that Dustin could take in his lunches all week when I came across this recipe. These blondies were simple to make and are very adaptable. You can top them with any combination of nuts and/or chocolate that you like. You’ll find that the bitterness of the dark chocolate and the crunch of the nuts compliments the sweet, chewy base. The perfect afternoon pick-me-up! The only challenge I encountered while making these was keeping my kitties off of the counter and stove while I was baking them. They sure are determined little guys.

Chocolate Chunk – Hazelnut Blondies
(Adapted from the recipe Blondies with Pecans and Chocolate Chips on Epicurious, from the July 1998 issue of Bon Appetit)

2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

10 tablespoons (1
1/4 sticks) salted butter
2 cups (packed) brown sugar
2 egg

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 oz. (1 bar) bittersweet chocolate, chopped

3 oz. (a couple handfuls) roasted-salted hazelnuts, chopped

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and a flour a 13 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan. Set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.
  • Melt the butter in a large sauce pan over low heat. Turn off the heat and whisk in the sugar to blend.
  • Whisk in eggs and vanilla extract.
  • Gradually stir in the flour mixture (the batter will be pretty thick).
  • Pour into prepared pan and smooth with a spatula. Sprinkle the top with the chopped chocolate and nuts.
  • Bake for about 25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the middle of the pan comes out with moist crumbs attached.
  • Cool the blondies in the pan, then cut into squares. Makes about 24.

    Lime-Glazed Birthday Cake

    Happy Birthday, Dustin! I’ve made muffins, cookies, fruit crisps, and quick breads, but this was my first birthday cake! I think I’ll be doing it again now that I’m less intimidated by my silicon baking pan. The cake itself was not too sweet, and the lime glaze (made with the limes that are growing in our backyard) was the perfect balance of sweetness and tartness. And get this – according to the article in Bon Appetit (in which the food editors had to come up with a week’s worth of dinners for under $100), the cost to make this cake came out to only $1.10 (assuming you have everyday staples on hand, like flour, eggs, and butter). Now that is something to get excited about.

    Lime-Glazed Cake
    (From the Jan. 2009 Bon Appetit)

    3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, room temperature
    2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, divided
    2 large eggs, room temperature
    1/4 cup milk
    1 1/3 cups self-rising flour*
    2 to 3 large limes
    1/4 cup sugar

    *If you don’t have self-rising flour on hand (as I didn’t), you can make it like this: For every cup of self rising flour, mix together 1 cup all purpose flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, and a scant teaspoon of salt.

    • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
    • Butter and flour 8-inch square baking pan (I used a 9-inch round silicon cake pan)
    • Using an electric mixer, cream butter and 1 1/2 cups of the powdered sugar in a large bowl. Beat in eggs one at a time. Beat in milk. Lastly, beat in flour.
    • Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth the top with a spatula.
    • Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 35 minutes.
    • Meanwhile, finely grate enough lime peel to measure 1 tablespoon. Cut the limes in half and squeeze enough juice to measure 1/4 cup. In a small bowl, combine peel, juice, and 1/4 cup sugar. Mix and set the lime syrup aside.
    • Using a skewer, poke holes all over the baked cake. Spoon half the lime syrup (about 3 tablespoons) over hot cake. Allow to cool.
    • When cool, transfer cake to a platter (lime-syrup side up, of course). Whisk 1 cup powdered sugar into remaining lime syrup. Drizzle over cake. Let stand 1 hour. Cut cake into slices.

      Roll-and-Cut Sugar Cookies

      What do German Shepherds, trees, people, stars, and firetrucks have in common? Absolutely nothing except that those are the cookie cutters that my Mom and I decided to use for our decorated sugar cookies! You can sprinkle the cookies with colored sugars and add pieces of nuts before baking, or you can decorate your cookies when they cool with a simple icing made from combining powdered sugar, a little water (until it reaches a good consistency), and food coloring of your choice. These cookies made great Christmas gifts this year!

      Roll-and-Cut Sugar Cookies

      (Adapted from the December 2008 issue of Food and Wine)

      2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
      3/4 cup sugar
      1/8 teaspoon salt
      2 sticks cold salted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
      2 large egg yolks
      2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
      Colored sugar, pieces of nuts, and/or icing for decorating

      • In a food processor, add the flour with the sugar and salt. Add the butter and pulse until the butter is broken up into small pieces. Continue to pulse until flour and butter form small clumps.
        • Add the egg yolks and vanilla and process at low speed until the dough comes together in a few large clumps. Pat the cookie dough into two 1/2-inch-thick disks, wrap them in plastic and refrigerate until chilled but not firm, about 30 minutes.
        • Preheat the oven to 375°. Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, working with 1 disk at a time, roll out the dough 1/8 inch thick. Using cookie cutters, cut the dough into shapes and transfer to the prepared baking sheets. Re-roll the scraps and cut out more cookies. Refrigerate the cutout cookies until chilled, about 30 minutes (we skipped this step and the cookies baked just fine). Sprinkle the cookies with colored sugar and add nuts, if you need to make eyes, ears, noses, etc.
        • Bake the cookies for about 13 minutes, until they are lightly golden around the edges; shift the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through for even baking. Let the sugar cookies cool on the baking sheets for about 5 minutes, then, using a metal spatula, carefully transfer them to a rack (we just used the counter) to cool completely, about 20 minutes.
        • Decorate with icing and have fun!

        We hope everyone had a great Christmas!

        Vanilla-Lime Bites

        These bite-sized cookies are delicate and buttery, with a burst of lime and just enough sweetness from a dusting in powdered sugar – the perfect holiday cookie. Merry Christmas from our kitchen to yours!

        Vanilla Lime Bites

        (Adapted from the Vanilla Crescents in the December 2008 issue of Food & Wine)

        2 sticks salted butter, softened
        1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for dusting
        1 lime, zest and juice
        1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
        2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

        Pinch of salt

        • Preheat the oven to 350° and line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
        • Using a hand-held electric mixer, beat the butter with 1/2 cup of the confectioners’ sugar until pale white, about 5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla, lime zest and juice.
        • Add the flour and salt and beat at low speed just until combined.
        • Form small balls with the dough in the palm of your hand. Carefully transfer the balls to the baking sheets, leaving an inch between them.
        • Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the bottoms are golden and the tops are pale blond; shift the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through for even baking.
        • Let cookies cool for 10 minutes on wire racks (or the counter).
        • Fill a small bowl with confectioners’ sugar. While the cookies are still warm, coat them in the sugar and transfer to a clean sheet of parchment paper to cool slightly.
        • Roll the cooled cookies in the sugar again and let cool completely.

        *Vanilla-Lime Bites can be stored in an airtight container between sheets of wax paper for up to 1 week. Dust the cookies very lightly with confectioners’ sugar before serving.

        Fresh Fig Walnut Cake

        My parents have a fig tree in front of their house. This is the time of year when the branches start to get heavy with figs, and we pull out the fig recipes or try to give them away to people who love them. This cake was a great way to use some of them up. It’s a good dessert, and an even better breakfast. It could also be baked as a quick bread in a loaf pan. Adapted from Beth Hensperger’s recipe for Fresh fig walnut quick bread.

        1 and 1/2 cups chopped ripe figs
        1/4 cup dry sherry
        1/2 cup olive oil
        1 and 1/2 cups sugar
        2 eggs
        1 and 2/3 cups flour
        1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
        1 teaspoon baking soda
        1 teaspoon cinnamon
        1/2 teaspoon cardamom
        1/2 teaspoon salt

        • Preheat oven to 350.
        • Soak figs in sherry for 15 minutes.
        • Combine oil and sugar in a bowl. Beat until light-colored. Add eggs and beat again until thick and creamy.
        • In another bowl, combine flour, walnuts, baking soda, spices, and salt. Mix into egg mixture. Then gently fold in figs.
        • Scrape batter into greased and floured pie dish or cake pan. Sprinkle some cinnamon-sugar over the top.

          • Bake in center of oven until top is firm to touch, and cake tester comes out clean, about 45 to 50 minutes (if using loaf pan, bake for 75 minutes).
          • Cool 15 minutes, turn out, cool completely and enjoy! Or you can wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill overnight or up to 4 days before serving, or freeze up to 1 month.


            Now that it’s fall, I’m craving the taste of cinnamon. Snickerdoodles are Dustin’s favorite cookie. Since today was his first day at his new job (YEA!) I decided to make these to congratulate him! It’s also important to note that these are the first cookies that I’ve baked in my new kitchen in Santa Cruz, using my wedding gift bowls, cookie sheets, and utensils! And you may remember my little Japanese oven from before. Now I’m almost overwhelmed by the size of American ovens!

            (From an old Holiday Martha Stewart Magazine that’s been laying around – except I always use salted butter)

            2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
            2 tsp. baking powder
            1/4 tsp. coarse salt
            1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, softened
            1 1/2 cups plus 2 TBS. sugar
            2 eggs
            2 tsp. ground cinnamon

            • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
            • Mix together flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
            • In another bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Stir in eggs one at a time. Gradually add the flour mixture.
            • In a small bowl, stir together the remaining 2 TBS. sugar and the cinnamon.
            • Shape dough into 1-inch balls, and roll in cinnamon sugar mixture.
            • Space 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
            • Bake 12-15 minutes or until edges are golden.

              Hi Jonas!  🙂

              Almond White Chocolate Chunk Cookies

              In search of something different from the usual chocolate chip, I saw this recipe on the nest and was immediately drawn to it. I have to bring something to a potluck tomorrow and the old Japanese ladies are always clamoring for “American style” cookies, so I thought I’d give these a try. As usual, we couldn’t get one of the ingredients – almond extract – so I just used vanilla instead. Even though they’re less “almondy” than they should be, they turned out great! I’ll definitely be using this recipe again.

              2 1⁄4 cups flour
              1 teaspoon baking soda
              1⁄2 teaspoon salt
              1 cup (230 grams) butter, softened
              1 1⁄2 cups sugar
              2 eggs
              1 1⁄2 teaspoons vanilla extract
              8 ounces white baking chocolate, coarsely chopped
              1 1⁄3 cups slivered almonds

              • Mix flour, baking soda and salt in medium bowl; set aside.
                • Beat butter and sugar in large bowl until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat until well blended.
                  • Gradually beat in flour mixture until well mixed. Stir in chocolate and almonds.
                  • Drop by heaping tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheet.
                    • Bake in preheated 375°F (190 C) oven for 10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned (12 minutes in a Japanese oven).
                      • Cool on baking sheet 1 minute. Remove to wire racks; cool completely.

                        Have you ever seen a Japanese oven? It doesn’t look like an oven, does it. Well, this is what I have to work with. It’s actually a microwave too! I don’t really like this oven. It’s small (I can only bake 9 cookies at a time), the buttons are hard to read, and it doesn’t brown things very well. I always have to add more minutes to the cooking time!

                        Yeah, it took me a while to figure all that out. It appears to have special settings for potato croquettes, milk and tempura shrimp. How specific!

                        And here’s the teeny tiny Oishii kitchen! Can you believe that’s our stove in the far left corner!?

                        Kiss Me, I’m Irish

                        Actually I have only a small fraction of Irish in me, but I love Irish Soda Bread and I fondly remember eating my Mom’s every year on St. Patrick’s Day and being pinched by my little brother if I forgot to wear green. This Irish Soda Bread is spiked with peppercorns for a spicy variation. This and a beer is the extent of my St. Patrick’s Day. I haven’t even seen a single shamrock in Japan today! This recipe is sort of a combination of two: one from epicurious and another from this blog. I had to find a recipe that doesn’t use buttermilk, so ended up using recipes that call for sour cream and substituting Japanese yogurt instead. Ah, the joys of shopping in Japan.

                        2 cups all-purpose flour
                        1/2 tsp. salt
                        2 tsp. baking powder
                        1/4 tsp. baking soda
                        1/2 TBS. sugar
                        1 TBS. black peppercorns
                        8 oz. plain yogurt (or sour cream)
                        1/4 cup 1% milk
                        1 TBS. butter, melted

                        • Preheat oven to 375 degrees (190 C). Grease a baking sheet and set aside.
                        • In a bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and peppercorns.
                        • Add the yogurt and combine.
                        • Add the milk and stir just until dough is evenly moistened but still lumpy.
                        • Form dough into a ball and shape into a domed 6-inch round on baking sheet. Cut a 1/2-inch-deep X on top of the loaf with a sharp knife, then brush with butter.
                        • Bake for 40-45 minutes or until top is brown and bottom of loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Cool before slicing.

                          "American Taste" Lemon Bars

                          Last year we threw together a Friday-night English Coffee House event at our church for all of our English students. They enjoyed listening to some live music, mingling and conversing (in Japanese, as much as we had hoped that they might want to take advantage of the English-theme of the night) while drinking freshly brewed coffee and eating these lemon bars. Several students less-than-fluently exclaimed, “This have American taste! Oishii!” I’ll take that as a compliment. This recipe has never let us down with its buttery shortbread bottom and tangy lemony top. It comes from the cookbook Gourmet’s Casual Entertaining.

                          First, make the shortbread base:

                          1 1/2 sticks (170g) butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
                          2 cups flour
                          1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
                          1/2 tsp. salt

                          • Preheat oven to 350 degrees (180 C). Process all ingredients in a food processor (I don’t have one, so I just picked up the bits of butter, and rubbed them with the flour between my fingers) until mixture begins to form small lumps. Sprinkle into a 13- by 9- by 2-inch baking pan and press evenly onto bottom with a metal spatula. Bake shortbread in middle of oven until golden, about 20 minutes.
                          • While the shortbread is baking, prepare the lemon topping:

                          4 large eggs
                          1 1/2 cups sugar
                          3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (3-4 lemons)
                          1/3 cup flour

                          • Whisk together eggs and sugar in a bowl, then stir in lemon juice and flour.
                          • Pour lemon topping over hot shortbread when it comes out of the oven. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees (150 C) and bake in middle of oven until set, about 30 minutes. Cool completely in pan and cut into 24 bars.
                          • Sift confectioners sugar over bars before serving. These can keep for 3 days, covered and chilled.

                          I’ll leave you with a current picture of Arius …

                          (Redemptive) Banana Bread

                          The first time I made this banana bread in Japan, I added a cup of salt to the batter instead of sugar. Salt & sugar are packaged in the same clear bags here, and I couldn’t tell the difference between the characters on the packages! I didn’t notice my unfortunate substitution until I licked the spoon at the very end. It’s almost been 2 years now, and since then I’ve redeemed myself with plenty of successful loaves of this banana bread (the recipe I grew up eating, originally from Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken’s book City Cuisine). We’ll be enjoying it for breakfast for the next few days toasted with butter. It’s also good with peanut butter! Yum!

                          1 stick of butter (120 g), softened
                          1 cup sugar
                          2 eggs
                          3 ripe bananas
                          1 TBS. milk
                          2 cups flour*

                          1 tsp. salt
                          1 tsp. baking soda
                          1 tsp. baking powder
                          1 cup chopped walnuts**

                          *I used 1 cup of whole wheat flour and 1 cup of all purpose flour

                          **I omitted this time, per Dustin’s request

                          • Preheat oven to 325 degrees (160 C). Butter a loaf pan.
                          • Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
                          • In small bowl, mash bananas with a fork. Mix in milk and nuts (if using).
                          • In another bowl, mix together flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder.
                          • Add banana mixture to creamed mixture and stir until combined. Add dry ingredients, mixing just until flour disappears.
                          • Pour into loaf pan and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.