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.

Baked Eggs in Puff Pastry with Goat Cheese & Bacon


I love brunch, but since going out to eat involves taking turns chasing an active toddler around the restaurant, we prefer to make it at home, or better yet, make our favorite brunch dishes for dinner. For this Blogger’s Choice recipe swap (hosted by A Taste of Home Cooking), I was really excited to be assigned the blog The Jey of Cooking. I used the same decision-making tactic that I did for the previous blogger’s choice recipe swap and went straight to Jey’s Eleven Favorite Recipes for 2011, because I really wanted to make a recipe that was a top favorite in her home.

Second on that list, these baked eggs in puff pastry stood out to me. I was craving some sort of breakfast/brunch-for-dinner and this sounded perfect. The versatility of the dish also appealed to me. Jey used cheddar cheese and bacon in her baked eggs; the original recipe called for feta and prosciutto. We decided to use goat cheese (because we had some in the fridge to use up) and made half with prosciutto and half with El Salchichero‘s chorizo bacon (one of our favorites – I raved about it in this salad). When you cut into these flaky, buttery puff pastry “plates,” you find the cheese and the meat under the egg; bacon hidden in anything is a delightful surprise. I served our baked eggs in puff pastry with some roasted asparagus and a mixed greens salad, and Dustin picked out a bottle of this Saison that paired wonderfully with the whole meal.

I need to digress on baking eggs. I’m still waiting to get them right. My first attempt was for this Shakshuka recipe, and while it was delicious, the eggs were definitely overcooked. This time, guess what, I undercooked them, so I had to throw them back in the oven for a few minutes and they were still not as crispy and done as I had desired. I swear one of these days I’ll get it! Or perhaps I’ll just cheat and lay a fried egg on top of whatever called for a baked one. When I make these again, I’ll increase the initial baking of the puff pastry with the cheese and bacon, and also after cracking the eggs into them. I think this will result in a more golden puff pastry crust and a more perfectly cooked egg. The cooking times below reflect the original recipe, and I’m just going to blame my oven in the meantime 🙂

Happy brunch-ing or brinner-ing – whether you make it for breakfast for dinner, you’ll love this dish. Try it with a glass of Saison!

Please note – these pictures were taken before I realized that the whites were still slightly undercooked and that the puff pastry could use a bit more browning. Back into the oven they went, but by the time they were done, I was too hungry for another round of pictures 🙂


Baked Eggs in Puff Pastry with Goat Cheese & Bacon

(Slightly adapted from The Jey of Cooking; Originally from I Will Not Eat Oysters)

2 sheets puff pastry, defrosted*
goat cheese
2 slices prosciutto + 2 slices chorizo bacon (or regular bacon)
4 large eggs
2 TBS. Parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and freshly ground pepper
fresh parsley, chopped for garnish

*We were able to get four circles out of one puff pastry sheet

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Heat a large pan on med-high heat and drizzle a little olive oil into the pan. Cook the prosciutto (followed by the bacon) on both sides until crisp. Place on a paper towel to drain off any excess fat. Cool, then crumble and set aside.
  • Using a a bowl about 5″ in diameter, cut out 4 circles from the puff pastry. Transfer to the baking sheet. Score a border about 1/2″ in around each circle. Be sure to not cut all the way through! Prick the inside, not the border, with a fork. Place in the fridge for 15 minutes.

  • Fill each puff pastry center with dollops of goat cheese and top with crumbled prosciutto and/or bacon, making sure there is none on the border.


Bake for 8 minutes or until the border has puffed up. Press the center down gently with the back of a spoon. Break an egg into a small bowl then pour it into the center of the “plate”. Repeat for each egg. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese. Place them back into the oven for another 6-7 minutes until the whites of the eggs are set and the puff pastry is golden. Garnish with chopped parsley.

Poached Eggs in Tomato Sauce with Chickpeas and Feta


When the December issue of Bon Appetit introduced me to shakshuka, a popular dish in Israel, it screamed comfort to me. You crack eggs over a simmering aromatic tomato sauce, seasoned with paprika, cumin, jalapeño, and garlic, and then transfer the skillet to the oven for them to poach. Chickpeas add substance, crumbled feta adds creaminess, and chopped cilantro adds brightness. Place the hot skillet (carefully) in the middle of the table and dig in with pita bread for dipping. If you succeed in poaching the eggs just right, the whites will be set and the yolks will be nice and runny. I was not so successful. After the suggested 5-8 minutes of cooking time, my whites were still clear, so I let them go a little longer and then they overcooked. Alas. It was still delicious, however, and I’ve been blogging long enough to feel comfortable admitting my screw-up. The next morning I redeemed myself. I fried two eggs (perfectly over easy, I might add – I’m more comfortable cooking eggs in a pan than in the oven) and placed them over the leftover tomato sauce/chickpea/feta mixture. Amazing. There are not many meals that I’d gladly eat for breakfast, lunch or dinner, but this is one of them.

The holidays can be a time of stress, whether it’s menu planning for your first Christmas dinner, braving the crowds downtown to find the perfect sweater for uncle so-and-so, or entertaining last minute out-of-town guests. Or in my case, maybe you have a 20 month old who can go from being the sweetest boy in the world to screaming at the top of his lungs when Mommy decides it’s time to leave the children’s section of the bookstore to pay for our books. In the midst of this kind of week, may I suggest this meal as a quick (and more importantly, comforting) weeknight dinner. In 30 minutes it can be on your table, and as soon as you tear off that first piece of pita and dip it into the bubbling sauce, you’ll be reminded of what matters. There is good food to be had. And look at the people sitting around your dinner table – you’re truly lucky to have them. Looking at my own (grown-up) baby reminds me of that baby in a manger, oh so long ago, who embodied love and grace for the world; I don’t know about you, but I could sure use some of that right about now.


Poached Eggs in Tomato Sauce with Chickpeas and Feta

(From the December 2011 issue of Bon Appetit)

1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
2 jalapeños, seeded, finely chopped
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained
2 teaspoons Hungarian sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand, juices reserved*
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup coarsely crumbled feta
8 large eggs**
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
Warm pita bread

*I used one 15 oz. can of whole peeled tomatoes, and one 15 oz. can of Muir Glen fire roasted tomatoes (had to make use of what was in my pantry).

**For the 3 of us (yes, Levi actually counts as a whole person now when it comes to serving sizes), I used 5 eggs. I kept the amount of tomato sauce the same, even though the original recipes says it serves 4-6. It makes wonderful leftovers, and you can always fry an egg (or 2) the next morning and place it on top of the sauce.

  • Preheat oven to 425°. Heat oil in a large oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, and jalapeños; cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft, about 8 minutes. Add chickpeas, paprika, and cumin and cook for 2 minutes longer.
  • Add crushed tomatoes and their juices. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens slightly, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle feta evenly over sauce. Crack eggs one at a time and place over sauce, spacing evenly apart. Transfer skillet to oven and bake until whites are just set but yolks are still runny, 5–8 minutes. Garnish with parsley and cilantro. Serve with pita for dipping..

Fruit & Nut Granola


Jump-start your new year’s resolution to eat healthier by making a batch of fruit & nut granola! It freezes well so you can enjoy it with milk or yogurt throughout the start of the year.

Before Christmas my mom and I were browsing the baking section at the store, when we excitedly came across barley malt syrup (look for it in your natural foods store next to the molasses). It added a nice malty depth of flavor to the granola, but next time I think I’ll use more so that the flavor is more pronounced. For whatever reason, the dark brown color and the viscosity made me use it more sparingly than I should have. But the nice thing about granola is that if you (for the most part) keep the proportion of oats, oil, sweeteners, and mix-ins, you can add any combination of things, depending on what’s in your pantry. For example, we used half olive oil and half melted butter, a combination of barley malt syrup, honey, and maple syrup, and whatever nuts were in the freezer (almonds, walnuts, and pepitas). I’m sure every time we make it, it will be different!  How fun!

And it’s not too late to surprise someone with a homemade gift! We love these glass jars we found at Dig in Santa Cruz. They come in several shapes and sizes for gifting your granola in a variety of ways (or storing it for yourself, of course).

Fruit & Nut Granola

(Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

6 cups old fashioned oats
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup chopped walnuts
2/3 cup green (hulled) pumpkin seeds (pepitas), not roasted
2/3 cup chopped almonds or pecans (or whatever nut floats your boat!)
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup barley malt syrup
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of cardamom
pinch of allspice
pinch of salt
1 cup dried apricots, diced
1 cup dried cranberries
2/3 cup dried currents

  • Preheat to 375 degrees.
  • Stir together all the ingredients, except the fruit, in a large bowl and stir until combined.
  • Line 2 large (17-by 12-inch) rimmed baking pans with foil, and then parchment paper.
  • Spread mixture evenly onto pans. Bake, stirring occasionally, until golden brown (be careful, it browns quickly towards the end), 20-30 minutes. Rotate pans halfway through baking, if one is on the top, and the other is on the bottom.
  • Transfer granola, in the pan, to a cooling rack, continuing to stir occasionally for about 30 minutes. When cool, stir in the dried fruit. Transfer to airtight containers and freeze, up to one month.  If you leave it out, the fruit will soften it, but it will still taste delicious.

I have to share some pictures from Levi’s first Christmas! Here he is about to open his stocking on Christmas morning:

I’m pretty sure the best thing about Christmas was the wrapping paper and boxes!  Yippee!

We hope everyone has a safe, festive, and fun New Years!

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.

 

CSA Vegetable Frittata


Can you believe we’ve never made a frittata before!? Well, that’s not true. In Japan we tried to make one once, but when we added the egg mixture to the skillet, we had the heat up too high and ended up burning the bottom before it even went in the oven. The top was edible, but …. yeah, anyway … we definitely redeemed that tonight! We had fresh eggs from TLC Ranch, potatoes, young white onions, and arugula from Live Earth Farm (our friends graciously allowed us to consume their veggies while they’re on vacation!) and one fat zucchini that we grew in our own backyard! Instead of starting the frittata on the stove top and finishing in the oven, we baked the entire thing in the oven — much easier this way (though it took longer than we expected).

Frittata makes a great breakfast, dinner (we ate it with a salad and some buttered sourdough toast – comfort food!), or appetizer (make ahead of time, cut into squares and serve room temp). And of course, use whatever veggies and/or leftover meat you have on hand! What a versatile dish. This recipe serves about 4. We made extra because we wanted to eat leftovers for breakfast 🙂


6 eggs
a splash of milk
salt & pepper
a small handful of Parmesan cheese, plus more for sprinkling on top
olive oil
2 medium potatoes, washed well and cubed
2 small white onions (or 1 medium), diced
1 zucchini, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
a few big handfuls of arugula

  • Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a medium bowl, beat together the eggs, milk, salt & pepper, and cheese (and whatever other spices you like in your eggs). I think we added a few dashes of Tabasco sauce as well! Set aside.
  • In a frying pan over medium high heat, sauté the potato in some olive oil until starting to turn golden. Transfer to a large bowl.
  • Add a little more olive oil to the same pan and sauté the onions until translucent and starting to turn golden. Transfer onions to the same large bowl.
  • Sauté the zucchini and also add to the bowl.
  • Finally, add the minced garlic (add more oil, if needed) and cook for 1 minute. Then add the arugula and cook until wilted, stirring frequently. Add the garlic and arugula to the bowl.
  • Allow the veggies in the bowl to cool a little bit, then pour into a buttered baking dish (we used a 9” round glass baking dish). Pour the egg mixture on top of the veggies, making sure the egg is evenly distributed. Sprinkle the top with some more cheese.
  • Bake until set, about 50 minutes. If the top is still not set, you can turn on the broiler to finish it off at the end, but be sure to keep an eye on it.
  • Slice and serve warm or at room temperature. As you can see, I doused mine with plenty of Sriracha:

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.