Posts Tagged 'banana'

Banana Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting

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Now that Mike is vegan and not eating sugar, I have been baking a lot less than I used to. But when my parents come over, my dad runs 14 miles with me, and there are brown bananas on the counter, I bake.

We had Open House at school last week and now there are just four weeks left in the school year.  I can’t believe I’m wrapping up my third year of teaching.  This was my toughest year yet and I almost bailed to go back to school to study public health…but after lots of contemplation and reflection, I realized the classroom really is where I belong for at least a few more years.

classroom

There are now four more weeks left in the school year, which feels simultaneously way too long and unbelievably short.  There are also four more weeks until the San Francisco marathon, and yesterday I bought matching shirts for my sister and me to wear.  Now we’re just trying to find a similar men’s top for our dad. Matching may be cheesy and ridiculous, but we’re doing it.

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Strawberry Banana Bread (and a novel about my current job situation)

Almost two years ago I put on my suit, drove north for a few hours to a city I’d never heard of, and interviewed for a teaching job. We were still living in San Luis Obispo at the time, and the school year would be starting in two weeks.  After applying to almost thirty districts, I had only interviewed twice, and didn’t get either job.

I got to the school way too early, so I sat in my car on the street and watched the three other candidates walk in for their interviews.  When it was finally time for me to go in, I took a deep breath, clutched my portfolio, and nervously walked into the office.

The principal, a science teacher, and a math teacher asked me questions about my experience teaching abroad, why I wanted to work in a middle school, lessons I’d taught, and how I work with students who speak languages other than English.  They asked if I would be okay with teaching PE and I told them about how much I loved running and being active.  I felt relaxed and confident as I showed my portfolio and answered their questions.   I walked out of there thinking I might actually get to teach that year.

I got in the car to drive back home and within 45 minutes, the principal called and offered me the job.  I spent the next two years teaching 8th grade science and PE, working with a phenomenal group of teachers and a dedicated principal.  I came to realize I love teaching, and particularly teaching middle school, more than I ever thought I would.  I am incredibly grateful that the principal took a chance and hired someone with no full-time experience. I’m also fairly sure I wouldn’t have survived my first year without the other 8th grade science teacher — the most organized person I’ve ever met — who was was more than willing to answer my questions, give lesson and lab ideas,  and skip her lunch to observe and offer feedback.

The job was challenging but incredibly rewarding, and I absolutely loved my students.  But I also knew that there needed to be some changes.  I didn’t want to spend the rest of my career teaching PE; I went to school to teach science.  Also, Daly City just wasn’t somewhere I wanted to live for the rest of my life.  The summers are cold and foggy, the winters are clear, but cold and windy, and because it’s decently close to San Francisco, rent isn’t cheap.  I have a few friends who live in the East Bay, where there are trees! And you get a real summer! And you can get an entire house with a yard for the price of a tiny apartment in the the city!  Mike and I were determined to make a move.

I started applying for jobs in the East Bay a couple months ago, and went to a couple interviews.  No offers.  Then this past Thursday, I went to a screening interview.  When I sat down with the interviewer, she told me she was a principal helping the district screen applicants for a pool, not interviewing for a specific job.  If I “passed” this round of interviews, my information would be forwarded to principals with openings, and they might contact me.  We chatted about teaching, and why I wanted to leave my current position.  After answering a few more questions, she let me know that she had a science position open at her school and she was interested in having me interview for it the next day.

Friday morning I drove to her school and met with the vice principal and science department chair.  I got a tour of some of the science classrooms and computer labs.  I’d looked into the school a little bit the night before and knew it was somewhere I would love to work.  I felt pretty confident leaving that interview, and tried not to stress about it over the weekend.  Monday morning at 8:09 AM, the phone rang and I was offered the job!

After calling Mike with the great news, I immediately knew I had to bake something to celebrate, so I chopped up some strawberries and mashed up some bananas and baked this loaf of bread while Ellie hung out in her high chair.

Although there’s a lot of stress that comes with this move – finding a new daycare, finding a place to live, figuring out which gym to join and where I can run and where I’ll grocery shop… it feels so right.   I will definitely miss my first school and the amazing people I worked with, but I’m also SO ready for this new challenge (sixth graders!) and to live somewhere we really want to be.

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Banana Oatmeal Cookies


Before we left for Monterey on Saturday morning, I had to bake some cookies. Usually eating a bunch of cookies the day before a marathon probably isn’t the best course of action, but that’s kind of what ended up happening.

They were pretty nice to have when we ended up being a little late to our dinner reservation because our previously booked hotel moved us elsewhere, then sent us to the wrong hotel (all the way across town).

They were also quite delightful at 2:45 AM on Sunday morning…pre-race fueling at its finest. But they’re full of oats and bananas, so that definitely means they’re not the worst thing one could eat before running 26.2 miles. They’re light and fluffy and taste just like banana bread!

Speaking of 26.2 miles, I just signed up for my eighth marathon:

The day after Big Sur, my good friend Alyssa reminded me that it’s pretty much a scientific fact that a marathon on that course is about 20 minutes slower on any other course. Meaning I could possibly run 3:29 (which would be a 3 minute PR). December 2, I plan to do just that in Sacremento! I have run CIM once before, in 2007, and dropped my PR from 4:14 to 3:47, so I know it’s a great PR course.

The next few months I’m going to focus on building a really good base, hopefully running some fast shorter races, and staying injury free so I can train harder than I’ve ever trained before for this race. Bring.it.on.

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(adapted from Allrecipes

Banana Espresso Chocolate Chip Muffins

It’s been a little rainy lately. Rain makes me want to run (I had a delightfully soggy 4.5 mile run yesterday at 9:46 pace…I’m getting faster!)

It also makes me want to bake. I made some Oatmeal Raisin Cookies.

They disappeared far too quickly.

Apparently the rain made Mike want to bake too, because he made this awesome cake (with kirsch and caraway seeds) from his Celtic Folklore cookbook. The man can bake!

Then last night, because obviously cookies and cake aren’t enough, I decided to make some ridiculously rich muffins. These are not healthy muffins, and I’m okay with that.

With my little (or not so little? How is she already ONE MONTH old?!) baking buddy strapped into the Ergo, these muffins were easy to mix together and came out absolutely delicious.

The only change I made was increasing the amount of instant espresso, and for me this yielded 14 muffins instead of 12. They were a HUGE hit both at home and at Mike’s work, where he claims they disappeared “literally within 30 seconds” (and he would not use literally incorrectly!)

Recipe:
(from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking)

makes 14 muffins

4 very ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup whole milk
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp instant espresso powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a 12-muffin pan with paper liners (plus two ramekins).

Stir the bananas, sugars, butter, milk, and egg together in a large bowl.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, espresso powder, baking soda, and salt.

Gently stir the dry ingredients into the wet, mixing just until all traces of lour disappear. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Divide the batter evenly among the pans, then bake for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool the muffins in the pans for about 10 minutes, then let cool completely on a wire rack.

Vegan Banana-Raisin-Nut Bread

Emily and I sometimes go a little dessert-crazy when we’re together. You saw the pretzel-M&M blondies. But what you didn’t see was the coffee-chocolate chip blondies, the coffee ice cream, and the brownies that we also made during the week she was here. And as much as I love baking stuff like that, I realize it’s probably best not to do it all the time.

Yesterday I told Mike I wanted to make chocolate chip banana bread but he gently suggested that it might be a tiny bit more reasonable to bake something healthy after our gluttonous weekend. So he suggested whole wheat banana bread with raisins and walnuts. I thought it sounded weird to put raisins in banana bread, but we made the deal that if it was good I would give him mad props on the blog. So here they are… GREAT IDEA MIKE!!!

I pretty much made this up as I went along, using a flax egg, sweetening with maple syrup, and using whole wheat pastry flour. Even with baking powder and baking soda the loaf is pretty dense and hearty, which I appreciate.

I haven’t talked too much about working out lately because last week I realized I might be done with the gym. Two days in a row, I got pretty dizzy and started having some mild contractions (which my doctor isn’t too concerned about, I may have just been a little dehydrated) on the elliptical, and switching to the bike didn’t make me feel any better.

BUT I’ve been doing way more yoga and it makes me feel awesome. Plus I can do it right here in the living room.  I want to try and do at least 20 minutes of yoga a day until the baby is born. I have no idea if that’s realistic, but I’m going to try. I have a few DVDs and podcasts, and nothing but time, so as long as I’m still feeling decent it should be doable.

And my last piece of baby news… we finally have a crib! As far as the nursery goes, that’s pretty much all we have – there’s still nothing on the walls (kind of like the rest of our house. We’re lame.) – but at least she’ll have a place to sleep!

Recipe:

1 tbsp ground flax seeds
3 tbsp water
2 tbsp coconut oil
4 very ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 cup Grade B maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla
1 2/3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/3 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Start by greasing a loaf pan and preheating the oven to 350 F.

Stir the ground flax and water together in a small bowl and set aside for a few minutes.

Beat the coconut oil in the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed. Add the bananas, maple syrup, vanilla, and water-flax mixture and mix for about a minute.

Whisk the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and nutmeg in a medium bowl and add to the banana mixture. Mix on low until just combined.

Fold in the raisins and walnuts.

Pour into the loaf pan and bake for about an hour, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

Bananas Foster Ice Cream


Bananas Foster always seemed like a good idea, but the first time I had it I was seriously underwhelmed. I think it was a texture issue, because really, how can anything cooked in sugar and alcohol be bad? But for some reason cooked bananas kind of gross me out.

This, however, is a creamy, smooth, vegan frozen treat that is has all the appeal of bananas foster but it’s shockingly easy and amazingly good. It’s made with basic pantry ingredients and is a little healthier and a lot less hassle than making a custard-based ice cream. I used a David Lebovitz recipe, but added a little more rum and used light coconut milk because it’s what I had on hand.

Normally any bananas that enter the house get blended up with spinach for breakfast…

so cooking them in sugar and alcohol was a pretty exciting change!

Recipe:
(adapted from David Lebovitz)

4 large bananas, sliced about 1/2″ thick
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 15-oz can light coconut milk
pinch of sea salt
4 tsp dark rum
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Stir the brown sugar and about 1/2 cup coconut milk together in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the sugar is dissolved and the mixture starts bubbling, add the banana slices. Stir in the salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the bananas are very soft (about 5 minutes). Turn off the heat and add the rest of the coconut milk, the rum, and the vanilla.

Let the mixture cool slightly, then transfer to a blender and puree until very smooth. Pour into a wide bowl and set in an ice bath, stirring occasionally until cool (or if you’re not in a hurry, chill in the fridge for a few hours). Pour into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Vegan Spelt Banana Muffins

Mike and I recently faced an incredibly difficult decision. He had a great opportunity at one end of the state and I had a great opportunity at the other end. Either place we moved, one of us would be giving up a lot. We agonized for hours. Then we ate some banana muffins and agonized some more.

The banana muffins temporarily took our minds off our conundrum. This was my first time baking with spelt flour, and I am obsessed. I also am in a little vegan phase right now, so I made a flax egg instead of using a real egg. Of course you can use a real egg – it’s your prerogative. These are sweet and incredibly tender, probably thanks to the maple syrup in them. Instead of streusel (not so healthy), I chopped up some freshly toasted pecans — still working through my Oh Nuts package — (healthier). Nobody believed these muffins were vegan, so I guess that’s a good sign.

And as for that conundrum, we’re still undecided…but I’ll update you once it’s figured out! It may take a few more batches of these muffins, though.

Recipe:
1 1/2 cups spelt flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 bananas, mashed
3/4 cup evaporated cane juice (or granulated sugar)
1 egg, lightly beaten (or one flax egg – 1 tbsp ground flax with 3 tbsp warm water)
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a 12-muffin tin with paper liners.

Stir the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl.

Mix the bananas, sugar, egg, vegetable oil, and maple syrup in another bowl. Stir the dry ingredients in gently, being careful not to over-mix.

Divide evenly among the muffin tins, then sprinkle with some of the chopped pecans. Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean (they’ll look pretty dark, but they’re not burnt!) Cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Hummingbird Cupcakes

Two of my favorite things about visiting my parents are my mom’s fully stocked pantry for baking and my dad’s willingness to run with me (pretty much any distance and at any time of day!)

My parents had a stack of Listener magazines sitting on their coffee table, and one of them had a feature on cupcakes. I keep saying that I’ve moved on from cupcakes, but obviously that’s not true. The recipe for Hummingbird cupcakes looked especially promising, and I’ve never tasted or made them before (so obviously I have no idea if these are authentic hummingbird cupcakes or not, but I do know they’re really good!)

The pantry had everything I needed, but I totally messed up the metric conversions on my first attempt. After returning from the Far North this afternoon I made sure I had the conversions right and then made them again, with the right amount of flour this time. These could just as easily pass for muffins if you leave the frosting off, but of course in my personal opinion, there’s never any reason to forgo frosting.

Recipe:
(adapted from New Zealand Listener Magazine)

cupcakes
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2/3 cup white sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 medium bananas, mashed
1 1/2 tsp orange zest
1/3 cup grated carrot
1/2 cup drained crushed pineapple

frosting
1/2 cup softened butter
2 cups powdered sugar
2 tbsp marmalade
1 tsp milk

Preheat the oven to 350 and line 14 cupcake tins with paper liners.

Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon together and set aside.

Beat the oil, sugar, and eggs together, then stir in the flour mixture. Gently stir in the carrots, bananas, orange zest, and pineapple. Divide evenly among cupcake tins.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, beat the butter and sugar together, then beat in the marmalade and milk (a few drops at a time, if you need it). Spread evenly on the cupcakes.

Banana-Caramel Whoopie Pies

Ever since I discovered that frozen banana makes awesome soft serve (just puree frozen banana slices in the food processor. Amazing.) we’ve been going through a LOT of bananas. I’m slightly conflicted about this because I know it takes a lot of fuel to get them here, and there are some human rights concerns with banana workers, but for now, I’m still eating them (just with more guilt than I used to).

It’s rare that bananas go unfrozen in our house, but a few days ago I found a few just on the edge of too ripe sitting in the bottom of our fruit bowl, and I stumbled upon this recipe to use them up. If you have 2 or 3 lying around getting brown spots, and you want to make something other than banana bread, I HIGHLY recommend these. The caramel frosting didn’t taste as caramelly as I wanted it too, because I was impatient, but it’s definitely worth it to let it get a deep brown (just be careful not to burn it!) Mine aren’t especially beautiful because I just spooned the dough onto the cookie sheet rather than piping it, but the flavor was still outstanding with a nice balance between the sweetness of the frosting and the banana in the cookie.

Recipe:
(adapted from Good Things Catered)

cookies
2 cups flour (all purpose or whole wheat pastry)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup mashed ripe banana (2 medium bananas)
1/2 cup plain yogurt
4 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla

frosting
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp water
2 tsp corn syrup
2 tbsp heavy cream
2 tbsp cup sour cream
3 tbsp softened butter
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

To make the cookies:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.

Sift the flour, baking powder, soda and salt into bowl. Mix the banana and yogurt together in a separate bowl.
Beat butter, white sugar, and brown sugar with the paddle attachment until light and creamy. Beat in the vanilla and egg.

Add half the banana mixture, and mix on low until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the flour mixture. Mix on low until traces of flour disappear, then add the remaining banana mixture.

Use a spoon to drop about a tablespoon of dough at a time onto the parchment-lined cooking sheets.

Bake just until set, about 10 minutes, then cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting:
Put the granulated sugar, water and corn syrup into a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir to combine, then cook until the mixture is a nice, deep golden brown.

While the sugar is cooking, heat the cream in a small bowl in the microwave, or bring to a simmer in a (very) small saucepan.

Once the caramel is a nice deep golden brown, remove the pan from heat. Wait one minute, then stir in the heavy cream. Let cool a few minutes, then stir in the sour cream. Allow to cool completely

When the caramel is cool, beat the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer until smooth. Add the caramel and powdered sugar, and beat until it has a spreadable consistency.

Assemble the whoopie pies by spreading a little frosting between two cookies that are the same size.

Classic Banana Bread

bananabread

I’m sure the internet doesn’t need another basic banana bread recipe floating around, and does my blog really need THREE different recipes for it? I think so. First, there’s the healthier version which has whole wheat flour and yogurt. Then there’s the oh-so-chocolatey version. But sometimes, you just need to stick with the basics. Get back to the true essence of what banana bread should be.

Last time I mentioned to Mike that I was making banana bread, I got into a little trouble. He heard “banana bread” and thought of the classic version you see here. I said “banana bread” but was already thinking about adding cocoa powder and chunks of chocolate. Although he really liked that version, he was just a little disappointed that I didn’t keep it simple. That’s the way he likes most things – just the classic version, with no fancy additions or embellishment. Which is fine, but most of the time I can’t help myself and have to mix things up a little bit.

So this time, I stayed true to my word, and made a plain old simple banana bread. And it was nice, in the classic, comforting way banana bread should be. Moist, slightly sweet, and evocative of sitting at my red kitchen table after being picked up from Montessori school about 20 years ago. The only thing I changed was the pan that I baked it in, because I only have my trusty 8 1/4″ round pan, and the baking time, which I shortened to about 40 minutes (give or take a few).

bananabread2

Recipe:
(adapted from Cookbook Catchall)
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 mashed bananas

Preheat the oven to 350 F and grease a 9×5″ loaf pans (or a 9″ round pan – my 8 1/4″ pan almost overflowed).
Cream the butter and brown sugar, then add the eggs and vanilla and mix well.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.
Gently stir the flour mixture into the butter and eggs, then add the bananas.
Pour into the prepared pan and bake for about 40 minutes (in a round pan) or about 60 minutes (in a loaf pan).
Cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.



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