Archive for May, 2011

Banana Cinnamon Muffins

A few days ago my fruit bowl was full of overly ripe bananas.  I don’t like to eat over-ripe bananas by themselves – I only like plain bananas that are yellow or even have a slight hint of green to them.  So whenever my bananas get brown spots on them, I try to find another use for them.  Usually I put them into smoothies (click here for my favorite smoothie recipe!)  But this time I was in the mood for something different.  So I did a quick recipe search and found this recipe for banana cinnamon muffins that I recently bookmarked in Google Reader.

These muffins were so moist and flavorful, and I love that they are healthy too.  There is hardly any sugar or butter in them, and if you do the math, you’ll notice that each muffin has a whole 1/3 of a banana in it.  I really like the cinnamon flavor in these muffins, though I think they could use even more cinnamon, so next time I make them I am going to use 1 ½ to 2 teaspoons of cinnamon instead of one.  The recipe makes 12 muffins, and I stored the extra muffins in the freezer so that they stay super fresh.  Pair one of these muffins with a glass of calcium-fortified orange juice for a healthy and delicious breakfast!

Banana Cinnamon Muffins

(print recipe)


  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 over-ripe bananas, mashed
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups  all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Lightly grease a muffin tin or line with baking cups.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the egg and continue to beat.  Mix in the mashed banana.  Stir in the milk and vanilla extract.
  3. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just blended.
  4. Spoon the batter evenly between the muffin cups and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.  Allow to cool and store in an airtight container at room temperature or in the freezer.
  5. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Yield: 12 standard size muffins

Source: The Pastry Affair

One Year Ago: Tomato, Mozzarella, & Basil Tart


Cinnamon Rolls

Whenever I get a craving for cinnamon rolls, this is my go-to recipe.  I’ve tried several cinnamon roll recipes over the years, and the Pioneer Woman’s recipe is by far my favorite.  This may surprise you, but they are actually really easy to make!  You don’t even need a mixer.  The dough for these rolls is so soft and fluffy and the filling is sweet, buttery and deliciously cinnamon flavored.  I always make two pans and freeze one of them (unglazed of course).  You can just re-warm them in the oven straight from the freezer and they taste (almost) as good as the totally fresh batch, even after being frozen for a month or two.  These cinnamon rolls are the perfect thing to make for a special brunch or a weekend breakfast.  I have even been known to make them for dessert.  Any time of day is a good time for cinnamon rolls.  :)  Enjoy!

Cinnamon Rolls

(print recipe)


For the Cinnamon Rolls:

  • 2 cups whole milk
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 package (2 ¼ teaspoons) Active Dry Yeast
  • 4 cups (Plus ½ cup extra, separated) all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon (heaping) baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon (scant) baking soda
  • ½ tablespoon (heaping) salt
  • Melted butter (approximately ½ cup = 1 stick)
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar (approximately… sometimes I only use ½ cup)
  • Generous sprinkling of cinnamon

For the Glaze:

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 3-5 tablespoons milk


  1.  To make the cinnamon rolls: Mix the milk, vegetable oil, and sugar in a pan.  Scald the mixture (heat until just before the boiling point—approx. 170 degrees F).  Turn off the heat and leave to cool 45 minutes to an hour.  (The mixture should be cooled to approximately 110-120 degrees F).  When the mixture is lukewarm to warm, but NOT hot, sprinkle in the package of yeast.  Let this sit for a minute.  Then add 4 cups of all-purpose flour and stir the mixture together.  Cover and let rise for at least an hour.
  2. After rising for at least an hour, add ½ cup more of flour, the baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Stir the mixture together.  (At this point you could cover the dough and put it in the fridge until you need it – overnight or even a day or 2, if necessary.  Just keep your eye on it and if it starts to overflow out of the pan, just punch it down.)
  3. When you are ready to prepare the rolls, sprinkle a rolling surface generously with flour.  Take the dough and form a rough rectangle.  Then roll the dough thin, maintaining a general rectangular shape.  Drizzle 1/3 to ½ cup of melted butter over the dough.  Sprinkle ½- ¾ cup of granulated sugar over the butter, followed by a generous sprinkling of cinnamon. 
  4. Starting at the end opposite you, begin rolling the dough in a neat line toward you.  Keep the roll relatively tight as you go.  Then pinch the seam of the roll to seal it. 
  5. Spread 1 tablespoon of melted butter in 2 round cake or pie pans, making sure to also butter the sides of each pan.  Then begin cutting the rolls approximately ¾-1 inch thick and laying them in the buttered pans.  (You should fill 2 pans).
  6. Let the rolls rise for 20-30 minutes.  Then bake them at 375 degrees Fahrenheit until light golden brown, about 18-22 minutes.
  7. To make the glaze:  In a small bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, maple syrup, and milk until smooth.  (If the mixture is too thick, add a little more milk to thin it out.  If it is too thin, add a little more powdered sugar to thicken it).  The mixture should be thick but still pourable.  Generously drizzle the glaze over the warm cinnamon rolls.  (Note – if you are planning to freeze one of the pans of cinnamon rolls, do not glaze them at this time.  To reheat a frozen pan of rolls, just place it in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F until the cinnamon rolls are warmed through – this will probably take 10-15 minutes.  Then glaze them.)

Yield: approximately 16-18 cinnamon rolls (depending on size)

Source: Adapted from the Pioneer Woman

Linguine with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Olives, and Lemon

I decided to make this pasta dish for dinner a few days ago after watching Giada De Laurentiis make it on her cooking show.  ‘Giada at Home’ is one of my favorite shows to watch on The Food Channel – I love how she uses simple, fresh ingredients, and most of the things she makes can be made in 30 minutes or less.  This particular recipe took only 20 minutes to make and it was delicious!  It’s a simple vegetarian pasta dish with a sauce that is very similar to pesto.  The sauce is filled with flavors that I love – basil, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, parmesan cheese, olives and lemon.  It’s the perfect meal to make on a busy weeknight, and the leftovers are excellent for lunch the next day too.  The linguine would also be great topped with grilled boneless skinless chicken.  I am already planning to make this again very soon!

Linguine with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Olives, and Lemon

(print recipe)


  • 1 pound linguine pasta
  • 1 cup (6 ounces) chopped or julienned sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) medium green Italian olives, pitted
  • 1 packed cup fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Zest of 1 large lemon
  • Juice of half of a lemon
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes.  Drain and reserve about 1 cup of the pasta water.  Place the pasta in a large serving bowl.
  2. In a food processor, combine the sun-dried tomatoes, olives, basil, garlic, oil, lemon zest, and lemon juice.  Pulse until blended but still a little chunky.
  3. Add the Parmesan cheese to the pasta and toss well.  Pour the tomato mixture on top and toss until the pasta is coated.  If the sauce is dry, add some of the reserved pasta water and toss to coat.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Serves: 4-6

Source: Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

Double Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes

Lately I have been making lots of cupcakes!  They are so much fun to make and the flavor possibilities are endless.  One flavor combination I absolutely love is chocolate and raspberry.  Of all the cupcakes I’ve made recently, I think these double chocolate raspberry cupcakes are my favorite.  (Eric agrees).  These cupcakes are fluffy, moist, light and airy.  And they are super rich because they contain both melted chocolate and cocoa powder, and in addition to that, the chocolate flavor is further enhanced by coffee.  The centers of these cupcakes are injected with a delicious raspberry filling, and the cupcakes are topped with a rich and creamy chocolate ganache.  As a final sweet touch, the cupcakes are garnished with chocolate ganache-filled raspberries (whoever thought of filling raspberries with chocolate is a genius!)  These cupcakes do take some time to make, but the end result is well worth the time and effort.

Double Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes

(print recipe)


For the cupcakes:

  • 3 oz. semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1½ cups hot brewed coffee
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ cups unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • ¾ tsp. baking powder
  • 1¼ tsp. salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • ¾ cup vegetable oil
  • 1½ cups buttermilk
  • ¾ tsp. vanilla extract

For the filling:

  • 1 (12 oz.) bag frozen raspberries, thawed
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp. cornstarch

For the frosting:

  • 12 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • 1½ tbsp. sugar
  • 1½ tbsp. corn syrup
  • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature


  1. To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.  Place the chopped chocolate in a medium bowl; add the hot coffee and let stand a minute or two, then whisk until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  In the bowl of an electric mixer beat the eggs on medium-high speed until slightly thickened and pale yellow.  Slowly add the oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to the eggs, mixing until well blended.  Add the dry ingredients and beat on medium-low speed just until incorporated.
  3. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cupcake liners, filling each about ¾ of the way full.  Bake 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.   Allow to cool in the pan 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  4. To make the raspberry filling, puree the raspberries in a blender or food processor.  Strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a saucepan to remove the seeds.  Whisk in the sugar and cornstarch, and heat, stirring frequently until the mixture boils.  Once it has thickened, remove the pan from the heat.  Chill before using.
  5. Meanwhile, make the ganache.  Add the chopped chocolate to a medium heatproof bowl.  In a saucepan combine the cream, corn syrup and sugar.  Heat until just boiling.  Immediately pour the mixture over the chopped chocolate and let stand a few minutes to melt.  Whisk in small circular motions until the mixture is smooth and blended, then whisk in the butter 1 tablespoon at a time until completely incorporated.  Let the mixture stand at room temperature to thicken slightly, so it can be piped or spread.
  6. To assemble the cupcakes, place the raspberry filling in a pastry bag.  (I used a tip specifically for injecting fillings, but a plain tip is fine too.  This cake is soft enough that you can just stick the tip into the top of the cupcake and pipe away.)  Pipe a few teaspoons of filling into each cupcake.  Spread the ganache over the tops of the cupcakes.  If desired, pipe excess ganache inside fresh raspberries and place on top of the frosted cupcakes (be sure to do this before the frosting sets.)  Allow to set completely before serving.

Note: These cupcakes should be stored in the refrigerator.  Let them come to room temperature for about 45 minutes before serving.

Yield: 24-28 cupcakes

Source: Annie’s Eats; originally adapted from Smitten Kitchen and Gourmet, March 1999

Vanilla Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

I picked this cupcake recipe out of the Magnolia Bakery cookbook, and I wasn’t sure what to expect from it.  I expected them to taste good, but I wasn’t expecting too much because these vanilla cupcakes have such basic, simple ingredients… nothing fancy like fresh vanilla beans or cake flour.  As it turns out, you don’t need all the bells and whistles (i.e. expensive ingredients) to make a delicious vanilla cupcake with chocolate frosting.  I’m slightly ashamed to say this, but between the two of us, Eric and I ate all 12 of these cupcakes in just a 3-day period.  I usually have much more self control than that! :)  They really were that good though.  The vanilla cake is fluffy, moist, and has just the right amount of vanilla flavor.  And the frosting is incredible – it’s creamy, chocolaty, fluffy, sweet and rich.  It’s the perfect accompaniment to the vanilla cupcakes.  I can’t wait to make these cupcakes again!

A few notes:

  • This cupcake recipe calls for self-rising flour.  Self-rising flour is flour that contains pre-mixed leavening agents.  You can purchase it from the grocery store, but it is super easy (and probably cheaper) to make at home.  A recipe for self-rising flour is included at the bottom of this post.
  • I used a large round tip to frost the cupcakes.
  • I always store leftover cupcakes in the refrigerator.  Before serving them, let them come to room temperature for 30-45 minutes.

Vanilla Cupcakes

(print recipe)


  • 1 ½ cups self-rising flour  (see below for recipe)
  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature (I used eggs straight from the fridge)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 24 muffin tins with cupcake papers.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the self rising flour and all-purpose flour; set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium speed until smooth.
  4. Add the sugar gradually and beat for 3 minutes or until fluffy.
  5. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  6. Add the dry ingredients in three parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla.
  7. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated, but do not overbeat.  Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl to make sure the ingredients are well blended.
  8. Spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling about 3/4 full.
  9. Bake in a 350° oven for 20-25 minutes (a toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean).
  10. Cool the cupcakes in the muffin tin for 15 minutes.  Remove from the tins and cool completely on a wire rack before icing.

Yield: 24 cupcakes (recipe can be halved)

Source: Adapted from The Complete Magnolia Bakery Cookbook

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting


  • 1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk
  • 9 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled to lukewarm **
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 ¼ cups sifted powdered (confectioners’) sugar


**Note: There are 2 ways you can melt the chocolate:

  • Place in a double boiler over simmering water on low heat for 5-10 minutes; stirring occasionally until the chocolate is completely smooth and no pieces remain; remove from heat and let cool 5-15 minutes or until lukewarm.
  • Or you can just melt the chocolate  in the microwave.  To do this, place the chopped chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for about 30 seconds.  Then stir the chocolate and continue microwaving in 5-10 second intervals until the chocolate is fully melted.
  1. To make the buttercream: In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter using an electric mixer on MEDIUM speed for about 3 minutes or until creamy.
  2. Add the milk carefully and beat until smooth.
  3. Add the melted chocolate and beat well for 2 minutes.
  4. Add the vanilla and beat for 3 minutes.
  5. Gradually add in the sugar and beat on LOW speed until creamy and of desired consistency.

Yield: Enough frosting to frost 24 cupcakes or a 9-inch two layer cake.

**For icing a 3-layer cake use the following measurements: 2 cups unsalted butter, 3 tablespoons milk, 12 ounces semisweet chocolate, 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract, 3 cups sifted powdered sugar.

Source:  The Complete Magnolia Bakery Cookbook

Self Rising Flour


  • 1 ½  cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder

Directions – Sift together the flour, salt, and baking powder.

Yield: 1 ½ cups of self-rising flour

Source:  All Recipes

Restaurant Style Salsa

Fresh salsa made from scratch has been on my “to-make” list for a while now, and since today is Cinco de Mayo, it seemed like the perfect week to make it.  I used The Pioneer Woman’s recipe and it was fabulous!  This salsa is so easy to make– just throw all the ingredients in a food processor, pulse a few times, and it’s ready.  The flavors of garlic, onion, tomatoes, lime, chilies, and cilantro are delicious.  It tastes like it came from an authentic Mexican restaurant.   I prefer my salsa to be mild so I left the jalapeno seeds out, but if you like more spice, leave them in!  One thing I love about this salsa is that it has such a smooth texture.  Since you are making it yourself, you can puree it to your liking so that it’s as smooth or chunky as you want.  This salsa tastes even better after it has chilled in the fridge and all the flavors have marinated and melded together.  It’s the perfect appetizer to make for your next party.  Enjoy!

Restaurant Style Salsa

(print recipe)


  • 1 can (28 Ounce) whole tomatoes with juice
  • 2 cans (10 Ounce) Rotel (diced tomatoes and green chilies)
  • ¼ cup chopped onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 whole jalapeno, quartered and sliced thin (seeds optional)
  • ¼ teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ cup cilantro (you can add more if you want)
  • lime juice from ½ of a lime


  1. Combine whole tomatoes, Rotel, onion, jalapeno, garlic, sugar, salt, cumin, lime juice, and cilantro in a blender or food processor.  Pulse until you get the salsa to the consistency you’d like—about 10 to 15 pulses.
  2. Test seasonings with a tortilla chip and adjust as needed.
  3. Refrigerate salsa for at least an hour.  Serve with tortilla chips.

Note: This makes a very large batch.  Recommend using an 11-12-cup food processor, or you can process the ingredients in batches and then mix everything together in a large bowl.

Serves: 12

Source: The Pioneer Woman

And here are some other delicious Mexican-inspired recipes to try:

Grilled Chicken Fajitas — The marinade for these fajitas is fantastic.  Served on tortillas with grilled bell peppers and onions, these fajitas are the perfect main course.

Rice with Black Beans and Corn is a wonderful side dish to make alongside grilled chicken fajitas.  It’s colorful, flavorful, and so delicious.  You can also serve this rice burrito-style along with some melted cheese and/or grilled chicken.

Pan-Grilled Vegetable Sandwiches with Basil Pesto and Mozzarella

I came up with the idea to make these sandwiches after seeing grilled vegetable sandwiches featured on my sister’s cooking blog a few weeks ago.  Her sandwiches had grilled vegetables, ricotta cheese, and balsamic vinegar.  I don’t care for ricotta cheese, but basil pesto seemed like the perfect substitute to go with the grilled vegetables.  I also added some mozzarella cheese to give the sandwiches another layer of flavor.  For the vegetables, I used a colorful mixture of zucchini, yellow summer squash, and roasted red peppers, but you could also use eggplant or portabello mushrooms.  I served these sandwiches on fresh grilled ciabatta bread and they were delicious!  For a side dish, we had fresh strawberries and pineapple, and it was the perfect Spring dinner.

Pan-Grilled Vegetable Sandwiches with Basil Pesto and Mozzarella

(print recipe)


  • 2 zucchini, sliced lengthwise into ¼ – inch thick slices
  • 2 yellow squashes, sliced lengthwise into ¼ – inch thick slices
  • 2 red peppers, roasted (for instructions, click here) or 2 roasted red peppers from a jar
  • 8-12 slices fresh mozzarella cheese
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup Basil Pesto (recipe below)
  • Loaf of ciabatta bread


  1. Brush both sides of the sliced zucchini and yellow squash with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat a grill pan over medium- high heat and brush lightly with olive oil.
  3. Working in batches, grill the zucchini and squash until they are tender and grill marks appear, about 4 minutes per side.  Remove the veggies from the pan and set aside.
  4. Slice the loaf of ciabatta bread into 4 pieces and cut each piece in half lengthwise.  Lightly brush the bread with olive oil and then grill for 3-4 minutes until the bread is toasty.
  5. To assemble the sandwiches:  Spread a layer of pesto on each side of the sliced bread.  Top with mozzarella cheese, and then layer slices of the grilled zucchini, squash, and roasted red peppers on top.  Place the top half of the ciabatta bread on top of the grilled vegetables and serve.

Yield: 4 servings

Basil Pesto

Yield: 1 cup pesto


  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup (approximately) extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese


  1. In a food processor or blender, pulse the basil, pine nuts, garlic, salt & pepper until finely chopped.
  2. With the food processor still running, gradually add enough oil to form a smooth and thick consistency.
  3. Transfer the pesto to a medium bowl and stir in ½ cup of Parmesan cheese.  Season the pesto with more salt and pepper, to taste.

Source:  Sandwiches inspired by Kristine’s Kitchen & Giada De Laurentiis;  Pesto recipe from the cookbook ‘Giada’s Family Dinners’

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