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.

Blueberry Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting


I have a 2 year old! Saturday’s weather was sunny and warm, perfect for Levi’s birthday BBQ at the park. He ran around, he played with sticks in the dirt, he colored on butcher paper with crayons, he blew bubbles, and he devoured chips and salsa, a grilled sausage (bockwurst is his personal favorite) on a sesame challah roll with arugula and sweet mustard, baked beans (his Uncle Lars’s contribution to the party – thank you!), potato salad with spring vegetables and mustard vinaigrette, and of course, his special birthday cupcake. Like most 2 year olds I know, Levi can really power through the blueberries; they are his favorite snack, so I knew that blueberry cupcakes were in order for his birthday celebration.


I came across a recipe on Smitten Kitchen for peach cupcakes with a brown sugar-cream cheese frosting. I simply swapped the peaches for blueberries and had the blueberry cupcake I was envisioning. The brown sugar in the frosting really sets it apart from regular cream cheese frosting. I know that Levi approved when I saw the look on his face when he licked the beater 🙂

I topped the cupcakes with a mint leaf (our plant in the backyard is flourishing!) and, of course, a blueberry. Then I packed them into  my handy new 36-cupcake carrier, where they arrived at the park in perfect shape, ready to be devoured and washed down (by the adults) with some Pale Ale and Amber Ale from Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing.


See that ice in the bottom tray of my cupcake carrier? When I read that the mercury was going to hit the 80s on the day of Levi’s party (what a relief, since last year the cake time at his 1st birthday party was cut short due to drizzle!), I filled some of the cups in the bottom tray with water and stuck it in the freezer (a tip that I read in one of the Amazon reviews). It seemed to help because despite the heat, the frosting didn’t melt! Of course, I kept the carrier in the shade as well.


He was one happy birthday boy. Happy birthday, dear Levi, happy birthday to you! And let’s hope Mommy and Daddy survive the terrible 2s!


Blueberry Cupcakes

(Slightly adapted from the peach cupcakes with brown sugar cream cheese frosting on Smitten Kitchen; makes 24 cupcakes)

3 cups cake flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch of nutmeg
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks or 6 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup dark or light brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) buttermilk, sour cream or full-fat yogurt
3 4.4-ounce containers of organic blueberries, washed and dried (set aside 24 blueberries for decorating the tops of the cupcakes)
24 fresh mint leaves

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners.
  • Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg and set aside.
  • Cream the butter and sugars together, beating until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl between each addition, and then add the vanilla. Gently mix in the buttermilk, sour cream or yogurt. Stir in the dry ingredients and fold in the blueberries.
  • Divide the batter evenly among the prepared cupcake liners. Bake for 18 to 22 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center of cupcakes comes out clean. Cool the cupcakes for five minutes in the tin, then turn them out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting

1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup (4 ounces or 8 tablespoons) butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • In a small bowl, whisk together the brown sugar, cornstarch and powdered sugar.
  • In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Add the sugar-cornstarch mixture and vanilla, beat until frosting is smooth and light. Chill the bowl in the refrigerator until it thickens back up a bit, about 30 minutes, then spread or dollop on cooled cupcakes. Decorate with a mint leaf and a blueberry, if desired.

Endive and Apple Salad with Warm Goat Cheese and Pomegranate Vinaigrette


Salad for dinner may conjure up images of summer evenings, but this one is about as wintry as you can get, and (dare I say) just as comforting as a bowl of soup. Endive cooked in butter becomes nutty and caramelized, pairing perfectly with sautéed apples, baked walnut-encrusted goat cheese, fresh baby spinach leaves, and a sweet-slightly tart pomegranate vinaigrette. We loved the juxtaposition of warm goat cheese, apples, and endive with the cool spinach and the pop of fresh pomegranate seeds. It’s everything you want in a dinner salad, with winter flair. Since we are traveling the day after Christmas to spend time with family, and probably won’t get a chance to post until the new year, we’ll leave you with this festive salad as a way to say Merry Christmas and Happy 2012!! We look forward to the coming year, when we will celebrate our blog’s 5th anniversary (crazy)! There is also a little family venture that’s been brewing that we will reveal soon . Thanks, readers (whoever you are; I love finding out who is actually following along!) What’s your wish for the new year? See you then!


Endive and Apple Salad with Warm Goat Cheese and Pomegranate Vinaigrette

(From the Oct/Nov 2011 issue of Fine Cooking; Serves 4)

1 cup pomegranate juice
6 oz. goat cheese
1/2 cup finely chopped hazelnuts*
3 TBS. butter
2 large Belgian endives, halved lengthwise with core left intact, each half cut lengthwise into 4 pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 firm, medium-sweet apples (like Fuji or Honeycrisp), peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 3 cups)
1 medium shallot, finely diced (about 3 TBS.)
1 TBS. cider vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
6 TBS. extra-virgin olive oil
4 oz. (4 lightly packed cups) baby spinach
1/3 cup fresh pomegranate seeds (optional)**
2 Tbs. thinly sliced fresh chives***

* We used walnuts instead.
** Optional, yes, but they look so pretty, don’t they? And they add a refreshing pop to the salad.
*** Our store was out of chives, so I omitted these.

  • Position a rack in the center of an oven and heat to 425°F.
  • In a small saucepan over high heat, reduce the pomegranate juice to about 1/4 cup (it should be syrupy), about 15 minutes (mine took about 12).
  • Meanwhile, mash the goat cheese in a small bowl with a fork until smooth (I must have used a dryer goat cheese because it didn’t mash well. I skipped this step and went straight to forming it into rounds). Form the cheese into four 2-inch-diameter rounds. Put the hazelnuts (or walnuts) on a small plate and press the goat cheese rounds into the nuts on all sides to coat. Transfer the cheese to a small baking sheet and bake until the nuts brown and the cheese softens, 8 to 10 minutes.
  • While the goat cheese bakes, melt 2 TBS. of the butter in a 12-inch heavy-duty skillet over medium-high heat. Arrange the endives flat in the pan (they’ll fit snugly), sprinkle with 1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper, and cook, undisturbed, until browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip and cook until the other side starts to soften, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a large plate.
  • Melt the remaining 1 TBS. butter in the skillet, add the apples and shallot, sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. salt and cook, shaking the pan often, until the apples start to soften, 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Transfer the pomegranate juice to a medium bowl. Add the vinegar, mustard, and 1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper; whisk until combined. Gradually whisk in the oil and season with more salt and pepper to taste.
  • In a large bowl, toss the spinach and apples with half of the vinaigrette and season to taste with salt and pepper. Arrange the endives on 4 large serving plates, top  with a mound of the spinach mixture, and then the goat cheese. Sprinkle with the pomegranate seeds and drizzle with the remaining vinaigrette. Serve.

Pork Tenderloin with Spicy Apricot Glaze


My son is obsessed with the garage. It’s no surprise. His father and his grandfather (my dad) love it as well. It’s where they spend many a Saturday, working on projects of various sorts. The other evening as we were getting ready to start dinner, Levi made his usual “uh? uh?” sound while pointing emphatically towards the garage. There’s no ignoring that request. Once inside, we turned our backs for 20 seconds while we opened the garage door and got out the BBQ in anticipation of grilling some pork tenderloin, and he had climbed about 6 rungs of the extension ladder that’s propped up agained the wall. Parenting fail. When we got him safely on the ground,  he pointed to the BBQ and blew three times (the indication of it being hot). “You’re right,” I say, “It’s not hot yet, but it will be soon. We’re going to grill some pork tenderloin tonight! Are you hungry?” (Oh, and by the way, never do that again. You scared the sh!t out of me).


A jar of apricot jam in the pantry inspired this pork tenderloin, which came from El Salchichero, our community butcher. We decided to make a sweet and spicy glaze by combining the jam with some minced rocoto pepper from our backyard. These peppers are spicy – almost like a habanero – so we used them sparingly. Some fresh Meyer lemon juice added a little acidity to balance things out.


When the coals were hot and the tenderloin had been marinating in a little olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper, I asked Levi to get the  BBQ tongs and bring them to daddy. Not surprisingly, he knows where they’re located and is always eager to help if it means retrieving something from the garage. After grilling, we allowed the pork tenderloin to rest so that it would be nice and moist when we sliced into it. The glaze caramelized nicely on the outside and imparted a subtle sweet and spicy flavor. Not bad for a quick weeknight meal. Levi enjoyed it too. Climbing an extension ladder makes for a good appetite.


Pork Tenderloin with Spicy Apricot Glaze

1 pork tenderloin (about 1 lb.)
extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
fresh rosemary, chopped
apricot jam (about 1/2 cup – I used 1/2 of a 9.5 oz. jar)
1/2 a hot chili pepper (such as a jalapeño, serrano, or rocoto), minced
fresh lemon juice (I used 1/2 of a fairly large Meyer lemon)

  • Place the tenderloin in a baking dish (or on a big plate) and drizzle a little olive oil over it. Season with salt, pepper, and rosemary. Using your hands, rub the oil and seasonings all over the tenderloin. Cover and refrigerate.
  • Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the apricot jam with the minced hot pepper, lemon juice, and some salt & pepper. Mix well. Taste and add more ingredients as necessary to balance the flavors. I ended up adding a little more lemon juice and more peppers after tasting.
  • Take the tenderloin out of the refrigerator as you prepare a charcoal grill. When coals are ready, brush the apricot glaze on the tenderloin so that it covers all surfaces. Place on the grill, cover, and cook for about 4 minutes. Brush more glaze on the top, flip the tenderloin, and glaze the other side as well. Cover and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Continue glazing and flipping every few minutes, until the inside of the tenderloin reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees and the outside is nicely caramelized. Transfer to a cutting board and allow to rest for several minutes. Slice and serve with your starch and vegetable of choice. We had couscous, grilled summer squash, and a salad.

Grilled Halloumi with Rosemary-Grape-Walnut Relish & Garlic Bread


Here we are in the heart of grilling season. There are a lot of enticing recipes out there – most of which revolve around meat – but I’m going to share something a little different, and if you’re a cheese-lover like me, you are sure to get excited about this one. It’s a cheese plate on the grill! A grilling cheese like halloumi or yanni can withstand the heat of the grill without melting. It softens nicely on the inside, and appealing golden grill marks form on its exterior. The creamy, slightly salty taste is a brilliant match for the sweet rosemary-grape-walnut relish and the the rustic, grilled garlic bread. The relish gets a delicious sweet, smoky flavor from cooking the bunch of grapes directly on the grill (I bet you’ve never grilled grapes before!) The garlic bread adds a nice savory counterpoint. Try this as an appetizer at your next BBQ, or as a dinner in itself (as we did) served with a salad dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette. Dining al fresco makes it taste even better.


Grilled Halloumi with Rosemary-Grape-Walnut Relish & Garlic Bread

(From the June/July 2011 issue of Fine Cooking)

1 medium red onion, cut into 3 to 4 thick slices
2 Tbs. plus 4 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 oz. halloumi cheese, cut into 3/8-inch-thick slabs (we used Yanni, a Mediterranean grilling cheese)
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 small loaf of ciabatta (about 8 oz.),cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
1/2 cup walnuts
1 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
1 large bunch seedless black or red grapes (about 1-1/4 lb.)
2 to 3 tsp. balsamic vinegar

  • Prepare a charcoal or (high) gas grill.
  • Drizzle the onion slices with 2 tsp. of the oil and lightly season them with salt and pepper.
  • Pat the cheese dry and drizzle with 2 tsp. of the oil.
  • In a small bowl, mix the remaining 2 Tbs. of oil, the garlic, and a pinch each of salt and pepper; brush the mixture evenly over one side of the bread slices.
  • Meanwhile, toast the walnuts in a small skillet over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until golden-brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Coarsely chop the walnuts while still hot and transfer them to a medium bowl. Mix in the rosemary.
  • Place the onion slices and the bunch of grapes on the grill. Cover and grill, turning once, until the grapes are bursting and the onions are grill marked, about 10 minutes. Transfer the grapes to the bowl with the walnuts, and the onions to a cutting board.
  • Use tongs to pull the grapes from their stems as well as crush them one by one before dropping them into the bowl with the walnuts & rosemary. Chop the grilled onions and add them to the bowl. Season to taste with the vinegar, salt, and pepper. Set relish aside.
  • Clean and oil the grill grate. Place the bread and cheese on the grate and grill uncovered, turning once, until there are nice grill marks on both sides, 4 to 5 minutes. Divide the bread, cheese, and relish among 4 plates (if enjoying as an appetizer) or 2 plates (as a main dish) and enjoy immediately. A lighter bodied red wine pairs wonderfully with this meal.

And yes, I’m aware of the sippy cup in the background of our pictures. “You know you’re food blogger-mom when …”

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!

Roasted Figs with Prosciutto & Blue Cheese

Three ingredients make an easy and elegant appetizer. I’ve been anticipating the first figs on my parents’ tree and finally this last weekend it was time!  Time to halve them, sprinkle them with crumbled blue and goat cheese (half and half to please everyone in the family), wrap them in strips of prosciutto, drizzle with honey, and bake until warm. A perfect match for a glass of wine and your favorite people.

Roasted Figs with Prosciutto & Blue Cheese

(Adapted from Pink Parsley)

12 fresh figs
Your favorite blue and/or goat cheese
Thinly sliced prosciutto, about 1/4 lb, cut into 16 strips (1-2 in. thick)*
2 TBS. olive oil
2 tsp. honey
freshly ground black pepper

* a note on our prosciutto. So we thought we’d be all economical and buy the prosciutto from the deli counter at our local grocery store, but their meat slicer sucked and they were unable to slice it as thinly as we would have liked. We still made it work, but the figs were a little tricky to wrap, and weren’t as pretty as I intended. However, when it comes to figs, the beauty really is on the inside  🙂

  • Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
  • Trim the stems off the figs and cut in half lengthwise. Place cut side up on a rimmed baking sheet.
  • Sprinkle with crumbled blue and/or goat cheese. Carefully wrap a strip of prosciutto around the center of each fig half, allowing the ends to overlap underneath the fig.
  • Whisk together the olive oil and honey and drizzle over the figs. Crack some black pepper over the figs.
  • Bake for 10 minutes or until the figs are warm and the prosciutto is a little crispy. Serves 8.