banana oat bran muffins

every now and then, i like to bake up a batch of oat bran muffins.  despite the whole grain and fiber, these are pretty tasty.  the recipe uses a fruit puree such as banana or pumpkin to add flavor and moisture.  it also contains honey and dried fruit so there is no shortage of flavor.  these mix up quickly, but once baked, they hold well for a couple of days and can be frozen.  if you decide to keep a few in the freezer, wrap them individually in plastic and place them in a freezer bag.  to thaw, allow them to sit out at room temperature in the plastic wrap and then pop them in a hot oven for 5 minutes.

this is one of those recipes that can be manipulated pretty easily.  if you are not a fan of oat bran, use wheat bran instead.  the fruit puree can be easily swapped so don’t hesitate to try using apple sauce, pear butter so go ahead, go crazy and use the left over sweet potatoes you baked for dinner last night, i won’t be offended.  while i used currants in the batch i baked, there is nothing stopping you from using dried cranberries or peaches or any other dried fruit for that matter.  size doesn’t really matter here, bake them in paper lined muffin cups in whatever size pan you prefer, just keep in mind that the baking time will depend on the size so check them with a toothpick to see if they are done.

banana oat bran muffins
makes 12-16 standard size muffins
1 cup + 2 tablespoons of oat bran
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (or cinnamon)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 egg 
1/2 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup mashed bananas
1/3 cup wildflower honey
1/3 cup dried fruit, chopped 
preheat the oven to 375.  line the muffin pans with paper cups and set aside.  in a mixing bowl, combine the oat bran, whole wheat flour, sugar, baking soda and pumpkin pie spice.  whisk them to combine.  in a small bowl, whisk together the oil with the egg, buttermilk, banana and honey.  pour the wet mixture into the bowl of dry ingredients along with the dried fruit and gently fold it all together until completely mixed.  using a scoop or a large spoon, divide the batter among the muffin pans filling the cups about 3/4 full.  bake until the top springs back when lightly touched or a toothpick comes out clean, about 20 minutes for standard size muffins.  allow the muffins to cool in the pan for about 5-10 minutes and then turn them out onto a rack to prevent them from getting soggy on the bottom.  

vegan strawberry-banana ice cream

my attempts to change my diet are a little hit or miss.  got the cholesterol under control only to lose the vitamin d level needed for strong bones.  frustrating to say the least.  so, to change that, i am spending time outside in the garden during sunny hours and i am eating small amounts of dairy.  one thing i won’t stop doing, eating sorbet and ice cream made without dairy products.  i recently picked a bowl of strawberries from the garden and mixed up a batch of ice cream using one of david lebovitz’s recipes.

strawberry blossoms are pretty.  when you look at them close up, the center of the bloom looks like a little yellow strawberry.

when you grow strawberries, it is a constant battle between you and the critters who eat them with a healthy dose of praying the rain doesn’t ruin the berries.  it is also a little like treasure hunting too.  each afternoon, i walk around the bed peeking under leaves in search of ripe berries.

a few notes about the recipe; strawberries soak up water like a sponge so wash them by giving them a quick dunk in a bowl of cold water and then pat them dry with paper towel to prevent waterlogging.  a ripe banana will add to the creamy texture but you can omit it and increase the strawberries to a pound and a half.  if you are not a coconut milk fan, use almond or hazelnut milk for a nutty flavor or switch it to rice or soy for a neutral flavor.  when you puree the mix, if you leave it chunky, there will be icy bits of fruit in the finished product-the fruit freezes to a hard texture because of its high water content, i recommend a smooth puree.  the added syrup and alcohol will also help prevent that rock hard frozen consistency but not much-let it soften before serving.

vegan strawberry-banana ice cream
adapted from david lebovitz
makes about 1 quart
1 pound fresh strawberries, rinsed and hulled
1 ripe banana-the riper it is the stronger the flavor
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons rice syrup (or wildflower honey if you are not a true vegan)
1 can coconut milk
2 teaspoons dark rum
2 teaspoons lemon juice
combine the strawberries with the sugar and the syrup and allow it to stand for an hour to juice.  add the remaining ingredients and puree in a food processor or blender.  place in ice cream freezer canister and process according to the manufacturers instructions.  allow the final product to set in the freezer for several hours before serving.

hummingbird cake with cream cheese icing

when it comes to southern desserts, red velvet cake and chess pie are popular choices.  let’s not forget banana pudding, it is always on that list too.  and it wasn’t until i moved to nashville that i even heard of a hummingbird cake.  since learning to make one, i must say, it is one of my favorite cakes.  
when describing a hummingbird cake to someone unfamiliar with it, i always compare it to a carrot cake.  the two cakes have an oil base with lots of raw produce and nuts in them.  a carrot cake is a blend of raw carrots, pineapple, shredded coconut and walnuts while a hummingbird cake is a combination of bananas and pineapple with pecans.  both cakes have a generous amount of cinnamon in the batter and they are both decorated with cream cheese frosting.  but honestly, they don’t taste anything alike except that they are both mouth watering good!
since i was taking this cake to a pot luck dinner, i decided to make it easier on everyone; i baked it in a tube pan rather than the traditional 3 round cake pans.  the result was a huge cake that fed our large group easily.  
so here are a few hints.  do grease and flour the pan-you will be sorry otherwise!  the bananas should be ripe but not mushy.  the perfect state of ripeness; a few black freckles and an obvious banana scent before you actually open the skin.  ripe pineapple will give the best flavor but you can use a small 8 ounce can of crushed in a pinch, just realize it will not add the same amount of flavor as the fresh.  whether you use fresh or canned pineapple, make sure you add the juice too-don’t drain it or the cake will be on the dry side.
hummingbird party cake
serves 16 or more
2 cups pecan pieces
2-3 bananas, ripe
1 1/2 cups fresh pineapple chunks, about 1/2 pound
2 cups light brown sugar, packed
1 cup canola oil 
3 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 recipe of cream chess frosting
preheat the oven to 350.  grease a large tube pan and dust it with flour.  place the pecans on a baking sheet and toast until fragrant, about 5-7 minutes.  measure out 1 cup for the cake batter and reserve the rest for the garnish.
place the bananas and pineapple into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the fruit is chopped to the size of peas.  pour into to a mixing bowl.  add the 1 cup of pecans, brown sugar, oil, eggs, vanilla and salt.  whisk until blended.  place the flour, baking soda and cinnamon into a sifter and sift over the batter in the bowl.  fold this all together and pour it into the prepared pan.  
bake until a cake tester comes out clean, about an hour to an hour and 15 minutes.  allow the cake to cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes before taking it out of the pan.  to remove the cake, place a cooling rack over the top of the cake and invert.  set the rack down and remove the cake pan carefully.  allow it to cool completely before frosting.
cream cheese frosting
4 ounces of regular cream cheese
2 cups powdered sugar, sift after measuring
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup toasted pecans (from the cake recipe-not additional)
cream the cheese with the sugar and vanilla.  spread it over the sides and top of the cake using a spoon to create swirls.  sprinkle the nuts over the top of the cake.  can be refrigerated but let it come to room temp before serving.

peanut butter-banana cream pie; #27 of 52 pies

has anybody noticed just how hot it is around here?  10+ days above 90, well above 90 on many of those days.  the thought of turning on the oven to bake a pie seemed ridiculous.  when the husband suggested i make a banana cream pie for this week’s challenge, i balked at first;  i’ve done banana already, remember the banana creme brulee tart? i asked him.  well, as the day heated up and i began to wilt, i experienced a flash of brilliance.  okay, i was hungry and since peanut butter wasn’t on the list of choices, i wanted it even more.  peanut butter and bananas in a sandwich on wheat bread…i had a salad instead and put the objects of my desire into a pie, substituting a chocolate cookie crumb crust for the bread, and then i topped it with whipped cream and called it dessert.

peanut butter-banana cream pie
1 (9″) pie serving 8-10
4 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups whole milk
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter (homogenized is best)
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1 (9″) chocolate cookie crumb crust-purchased or using the recipe that follows.
3-4 ripe bananas
place the cornstarch in a heat proof bowl, and add several tablespoons of milk and whisk to combine a smooth slurry.  whisk in the eggs and set aside.  place the remaining milk in a saucepot with the brown sugar and over medium-low heat, bring to a gentle boil.  carefully pour some of the boiling milk into the egg yolk mixture while whisking it carefully.  when about 1/2 of the milk is in, place the pot of milk back on the stove and return to a gentle boil again.  now begin whisking the milk in the pot and while whisking constantly, pour the in heated egg yolk mixture in a steady stream.  it is important to whisk this constantly while you bring the mixture to a boil.  it also must come to a complete boil to cook the cornstarch and thicken the cream.  when finished, pour the cream into a wide and shallow heat proof bowl, press plastic wrap to the surface and refrigerate until no longer warm. 
make the cookie crust while the cream cools.  when the cream is ready, slice up about 1 1/2 bananas and cover the bottom of the pie shell completely with them.  carefully spread half of the cream over the bananas.  using the remaining bananas, cover the cream with slices and once again, top it off with the remaining cream.   cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours to fully set the filling and make it firm enough to serve.
to make the topping, whip the heavy cream with the sugar until almost stiff peaks are formed.  spread evenly over the top of the pie and smooth it out with a decorating spatula (called a palatte knife).
chocolate cookie crust
11/2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs
1/4 cups chopped peanuts
6 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons melted butter-unsalted
combine the ingredients and press into a pie dish.  no baking is necessary but if you want a really crispy crust, bake it at 350 for 10 minutes.  allow it to cool completely before using.

so, you think you can bake do you?  prove it!  make one and send me a photo.  i dare you to, double dog dare you to…do it and i will post the photo here!!!

14 and counting; banana creme brulee tart

what a week it has been…construction, or rather reconstruction, of my house is well underway.  despite the torrential rain of last week, they are almost finished.  the repair of the small section of the foundation required jacking up that part of the house.  luckily, it is an addition and the rest of the house was not affected.  they warned me that walls could crack and that windows could pop out and shater the glass.  no windows shattered but the cracking was unbelievable-every wall is cracked and will need patching.  in the wall just above the repair, it will need new sheetrock since it looks like a road map now.  the good thing, mr. kenmore has recovered and i am baking again-happily!

faced with an ugly bunch of bananas, i decided to try something new.  first i pureed them and then i mixed them into a rich and creamy custard filling. 

the filling was poured into a partially baked tart shell and then it was baked until set.  the results-banana creme brulee tart.

since creme brulee means burned custard, i needed to burn the top of mine.  a thin layer of sugar was sprinkled over the top of the tart.

mr. kenmore assisted by burning the sugar to make a thin and crispy caramelized crust on the top

banana creme brulee tart
1 (9″) tart to serve 8

1 partially baked (9″) tart shell, use any type of crust except one made from crumbs.  my suggestion is to use a dough specifically formulated for tarts.  they usually contain some egg and sugar to make them easier to work with.  for hints on partially baking tart and pie shells, read this previous post.

4 egg yolks

1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon chinese five spice powder (or cinnamon)

3/4 cup banana puree, about 2-3 bananas-make sure they are ripe for the best flavor
3/4 cup half and half
1/4 cup sugar

preheat the oven to 325.  place the tart shell, still in the tart pan, on a sturdy baking tray that will not warp in the oven.  whisk the yolks with the dark brown sugar and the spices.  whisk in the puree and the half and half.  only mix to incorporate, the more you whisk, the more air you incorporate and the less creamy the final texture of the custard will be.  pour into the tart shell and  bake until set, about 20 minutes.  leave the tart in the pan and cool completely.

to make the caramel crust, spread the sugar evenly over the top of the tart so that it is almost a single layer of crystals.  using the broiler or a propane torch (if you have one, which i do not) and carefully melt the sugar.  it will bubble as it gets hot and then will quickly begin to burn.  be careful not to let it burn black or it will be very bitter tasting.  serve immediately, once it sits, for a while, especially in the fridge, the sugar crust melts. 

by the way garrett, i seem to have lost my marbles again…really, i did.  they hit the counter and bounced around the kitchen.  a couple landed in the living room and the cat got at least one.  i also found one in the basement, never a dull moment!

and as always, bake one, take a photo and send it to, and you will see it here.  happy baking!